As a 1974 graduate of NIU and a former sports writer for the Northern Star I am very concerned about the future of Northern’s football team in the Division I arena.
When I was at NIU over 20 years ago, we had just become a major college football university. It was an exciting time and there was plenty of football talent on campus.
I saw punter Tom Wittum play and he later became an All_Pro in the NFL. Running backs Jerry Latin and Mark Kellar would play in the NFL. Quarterback Jerry Golsteyn was a very good second unit player in the NFL for many years. And who could forget John Spilis, a wide receiver who was a high draft pick of the then powerful Green Bay Packers?
I also saw a number of other Huskies become NFL draft selections including: linebacker Larry Clark, split end Willie Hatter, tackle John Nokes, linebacker Rich Marks and linebacker Bob Gregolunas.
When I graduated from Northern in 1974, I really thought we were on our way to being a consistent top 25 Division I program in the entire nation. But, this has never really happened.
NIU’s 20 years of major college status has for the most part been a failure. Our teams have not been very good and the fan interest has been worse. We can’t even average 20,000 fans a game for home football games. I never missed a game during all my years as a student at Northern, regardless of cold weather, wind, rain or snow. Since graduation, I have seen at least one Huskie home football game each year.
This past 1991 season was terrible. I realize NIU had a new head coach and new systems to learn. But, our difficult schedule was unfair to the players. Northern had no business playing national powers like Florida and Iowa. I read in the Chicago Tribune that the Huskies played one of the top five most difficult schedules in the nation. And things don’t get any easier in 1992. I have heard we play two Big Ten schools, Illinois and Wisconsin, on the road. Look for Northern to have another 2_9 or 1_10 season for 1992. We never should have left the Mid_American Conference and should try to rejoin this league.
I think it’s time for the administration at NIU to decide what they want to do. If we want to be a major power, we had better start spending more money and recruiting better players. Otherwise, we should just be satisfied at being a low_key and low_status Division I football university. Thank you very much.
James J. Kaye