Huskies might be headed West

By Wes Swietek

When looking to the future, the NIU football team might be looking to the west.

NIU Associate Athletic Director Keith Hackett, whose responsibilities include football scheduling, said yesterday that NIU is investigating the possibility of aligning with the Big West Conference.

“It would be a scheduling consortium. We want to not have to play three Division I-AA schools every year. It would give us an opportunity to play a complete quality home schedule and a chance to play in a bowl game,” Hackett said.

“It’s definitely not a done deal. We don’t know if we would be a certified member or an associate member. If it does come to fruition, there would be two or three more members in the Midwest. There are other details that still need to be worked out,” Hackett said.

As it stands now, the consortium, or agreement, would be between the current Big West schools (UNLV, Nevada-Reno, Pacific, Utah State, New Mexico State and San Jose State), NIU and three southern Independents: Southwestern Louisiana, Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech.

Among the schools reportedly interested are Cincinnati, Memphis State, Louisville and Tulsa.

The conference would then be split into an East and a West division with the ultimate Big West winner facing the Mid-American Conference champ in the Silver Bowl at Las Vegas.

The biggest advantage for NIU in joining the consortium would be the benefit of a dependable schedule and a better chance for a bowl game, Hackett said.

“As the Independent pool shrinks, everyone is going to have to get into these scheduling consortiums, especially as so many bowl games are locked into conferences.

“The biggest thing we need is to attract better teams to DeKalb. The (Big West) consortium could give us some relief in that regard,” Hackett said.

Accommodating the conference games into NIU’s already-set schedule would be accomplished by moving games to future dates.

NIU already is scheduled to face Arkansas State and Southwestern Louisiana next season and Arkansas State, Pacific, Southwestern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech in 1993. The Huskies also have an open date on the 1993 schedule.

The Huskies are currently an Independent in football. Any conference affiliation with the Big Sky would not include other sports.

No decision about a move is expected to be forthcoming in the near future as the Big Sky is still in the planning stages regarding the proposed consortium.

But if the Big Sky does issue an invitation, Hackett indicated that it might be a proposal NIU could not afford to pass up.

“This is a good opportunity we need to look hard at,” Hackett said.