Independence days over for Huskies


After eight seasons as a major independent, the 1993 Huskie football team will enter the 10-team Big West Division for its silver anniversary season in the major college ranks of Division I-A.

The Huskies are one of four newcomers to the Big West Conference. Arkansas State University, Louisiana Tech University and the University of Southwestern Louisiana accepted membership into the Big West along with NIU on May 14, 1992. They will join current members Nevada, San Jose State, Utah State, New Mexico State, Nevada-Las Vegas and Pacific.

The addition of these four teams is part of an expansion idea that began in August 1991. Former league commissioner Jim Haney and the Big West Council approved forming the conference in hopes of expanding the league to a minimum of 12 teams.

With the joining of the Big West comes the possibility of an automatic bowl birth. The Big West Conference champion faces the Mid-American Conference champ in the Las Vegas Bowl currently scheduled for December 17, 1993 at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl in Las Vegas. In last season’s inaugural Las Vegas Bowl Big West champ Nevada lost to Bowling Green State University in the final seconds of the game.

Head coach Charlie Sadler believes that the possibility of an automatic bowl birth should provide an extra incentive for his players.

“The kids are playing to be conference champions to go to the Las Vegas Bowl,” Sadler said. “There are a tremendous amount of positives that come from this. One of those things is the motivational factors that come into play for this football team.”

In pre-season media and coaches polls the Huskies were picked to finish in fifth place. Utah State is the pre-season favorite for conference champ. Nevada, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State are expected to battle for second third and fourth place in the conference.

The Utah State Aggies finished 4-2 in conference and 5-6 overall last season good enough for third place. They’ll have 15 returning starters including QB Anthony Calvillo who threw for 2,494 yards and 16 touchdowns on 201 completions.

Louisiana Tech had a 5-6 record as an independent last season. This year they will have five starters returning and just one on offense. That lone player is running back Jason Cooper who led the team in rushing with 733 yards on 174 carries and five touchdowns.

San Jose State (4-2; 7-4) finished second in the Big West last season. The Spartans will have 11 starters returning. Senior running back Nathan DuPree and senior quarterback Jeff Garcia are the most notable. DuPree rushed for 1,239 yards and 11 touchdowns on 236 carries. Garcia finished last season 209 for 371 with 15 touchdowns and 2,418 passing yards.

Big West Conference defending champion Nevada has 13 returning starters. Their most notable returnee is wide receiver Bryan Reeves who finished last season tied for second in overall scoring in the Big West and led all Big West receivers in receptions with 81. He also accumulated 1,114 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Huskies will play six of their conference foes this season. The first will be against Arkansas State at home Sept. 18. The following week the Huskies will play their first road game against a Big West team when they face Nevada Sept. 25. The other four teams are New Mexico State, Pacific, Southwestern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech. Pacific will be the opponent for the 86th Homecoming Game Oct. 16.

One quirk in the schedule this year is the fact that the Huskie’s have only four home games and seven away games.

“That’s something you really don’t want to have on a year-to-year basis,” Sadler commented. “With this new alliance in the Big West Conference we had to make some schedule changes. Quite honestly we did not want to drop games with teams like Indiana and people of that nature.

“It’s just something we’ll have to work through.”