Players: Hotel change OK

By Dave Tuley

Most members of the NIU football team are unhappy to be staying in Rockford Friday night, but say it will not affect them during Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Western Illinois on Parents’ Day.

The Huskies are holding their meetings, spending the night and having their pre-game meal at the Clock Tower Inn in Rockford. Head coach Jerry Pettibone decided to pull his team out of the Holmes Student Center, where it usually stays the night before a home game, when he heard the HSC had booked the Western Illinois football team.

I’ll say this, I’d rather be in the student center, doing our normal thing,” senior co-captain Tony Savegnago said. “We’ve been doing that since I’ve been here. The hotel (in Rockford) might be nicer, but it’s tradition to stay in the student center.”

WIU made its reservation last year after facing the Huskies Sept. 27. Pettibone said he did not find out the Leathernecks were invading the Huskies’ den until three weeks ago. The third-year Huskie coach said he thought it was in the best interest of the team to change hotel accommodations.

Although they will be in unfamiliar surroundings and taking a longer bus trip, the players said the change will have a minimal effect, if any, on their performance.

“Forty-five minutes is not that far away, but it’s screwy the way it happened,” guard John Sugrue said.

Outside linebacker Mike Manson said, “It’s basically the same because we usually just go to the student center, have our meetings and don’t do anything else.”

Many of the Huskies said the decision was out of their control and they support the decision of the coaching staff. Several players said they could foresee the possibility of bumping into some of the WIU players, which would be a distraction and even could result in a confrontation.

“I just play,” guard Dan Smaha said. “It’s their (the coaches) decison, and I’ll do whatever they tell me.”

“It’s going to be funny to have Western staying where we usually stay,” halfback Keith Hurley said. “But you don’t want to stay in the same place as your opponent. Players get really intense and tempers flare before the game. You don’t want anyone saying anything and causing like a baseball riot with both benches clearing.”

Of course, there are some players who are also concerned with whether or not they get a good night’s sleep.

“I hope they have double beds,” Sugrue said. “I don’t like having a single bed in the student center. I want a double bed to myself.”

Sugrue seems to be in luck. A desk clerk at the Clock Tower Inn said each room has two double beds.

All agree that no matter where they spend the night, it is good to be playing at home.