Costly Facility Master Plan will reward university in long term

Athletic Director Sean Frazier’s Facility Master Plan may one day be seen as one of the catalysts in helping NIU make the jump to a bigger conference.

Frazier’s Facility Master Plan, unveiled Thursday with a price tag of an estimated $138 million, is a plan to update Athletics’ existing facilities and create facilities. Frazier said the renovations will be entirely privately funded.

Shiny stadiums and practice facilities alone won’t make big-time conferences call NIU. But, they could help in bringing in better recruits who could continue NIU’s winning tradition, which may lead to other conferences calling.

“Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program,” said football head coach Rod Carey, according to a Monday Northern Star article. “… It’s going to add to us just unbelievable recruiting ability. …”

Frazier’s announcements of games against big-name teams like Vanderbilt, Utah and Boston College, among other scheduled teams, will help spread the NIU brand further, potentially reaching recruits.

The Utah Utes, one of the teams scheduled by Frazier, made the jump from mid-major status to the big boy’s table in 2011 when they moved from the Mountain West Conference to what was then called the Pac-10. They were the first BCS busters, earning trips to the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and the 2009 Sugar Bowl and winning both games.

The Utah move also came at a time of major college football realignment. The Utes made the move to the Pac-12, along with Colorado, to give the Pac-12 enough teams to establish a championship game.

In the College Football Playoff, the selection committee’s criteria includes whether a team wins its conference championship, among other things. The Big 12, the conference which bloggers and fans think NIU should join, only has 10 teams and would need 12 teams to play a championship game.

But, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a Wednesday Q&A with The Oklahoman he doesn’t see “obvious candidates” for expansion. The Huskies can enter that conversation by continuing to win and expanding their brand.

Frazier’s Facility Master Plan will bring NIU’s facilities into the 21st century. Along with the football’s recent success and Frazier’s aggressive scheduling, the Facility Master Plan has the potential to play a role in helping the Huskies make the jump to the next level, and with a cost of $0 to the university, the potential rewards are endless.