Huskies to face Ohio State in ‘06

By Steve Brown

Just months after two NIU-Big Ten matchups were announced for the 2005 football season, NIU Athletics Director Jim Phillips announced May 16 that the Huskies will face Ohio State in 2006.

NIU is also scheduled to play BCS power Tennessee in 2006, and is slated to play Big Ten teams Iowa (2007) and Purdue (2009) within the decade.

“As you see, we’re scheduling the teams in the Top 10; it’s the ones around Top-15 we’re having trouble with,” NIU coach Joe Novak said. “We’re trying to get a team at home. I don’t think we’ll have a problem scheduling teams, but we’re still have trouble getting them in Huskie Stadium.”

NIU begins its season at Michigan Sept. 3, and will play at Northwestern a week later. The meeting at Ohio State on Sept. 2, 2006 will be the first between the two teams.

“I think the institution that gains the most from this closeness to the Big Ten is NIU because we sit right in the middle of Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State, Purdue and [Illinois],” NIU President John Peters said. “Any of those games draw [alumni] from the Chicago area, and I think those are games people want to see.”

NIU set for nine TV games

For the second straight year, NIU will have nine of its regular-season games televised.

ESPN2 will air three Huskie matchups: NIU’s Oct. 5 home game against Miami of Ohio, the Nov. 16 game at Toledo and the Nov. 23 Western Michigan-NIU game at Huskie Stadium.

Three more games will be carried on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and the Sept. 10 game at Northwestern will be broadcast by ESPN Classic.

Novak was excited about the exposure TV games give his program for recruiting, but says the media doesn’t change his game plan.

“We don’t change anything,” Novak said. “Once the game gets going you don’t even know if you’re on TV or not, but the exposure is a plus. It legitimizes our program. It’s a real plus for the university, as well.”

Novak honored

Novak can add another trophy to his growing collection June 27, but this one will place him among the likes of Mike Ditka and other coaching greats.

Novak will receive the Ray Meyer Coach Award at the 2005 Giant Awards Dinner June 27 at the White Eagle Banquet Hall in Niles.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Novak said. “I’m thrilled that they would consider us. It’s a great tribute to our total program. Any kind of award like that is a group effort.”

Oh captains, my captains

For the second straight year, four seniors were chosen to lead the Huskies.

Running back A.J. Harris, linebacker Javan Lee, strong safety Ray Smith and center Brian Van Acker were voted quad-captains for the 2005 season.

“I think they made some great choices,” Novak said of his players, who picked the captains. “Strong leadership is very important to any team. I thought we had that last year and we’ll have it this year as well.”