Poor record, location force expansion of recruiting base

By Todd McMahon

Lack of success and proximity seem to be the major drawbacks for the NIU football team when it comes to recruiting players from the Chicagoland area.

Only four of the 24 signed players by NIU head coach Charlie Sadler last week hail from Illinois. Some of the high school experts agree that DeKalb is not an alluring location for most high school players.

“Our kids have a stigma, not just about Northern but also the Division II and III schools in the area,” St. Charles High School head coach Buck Drach said. “They feel it’s almost too close to home for them.”

High school expert and Chicago Sun-Times sportswriter Taylor Bell said kids in Chicago aren’t helping NIU’s situation, either. “You don’t hear the kids talking about Northern here,” he said. “Their minds are set on going to where there is a winning program.”

Because of that, NIU is not being aided by the high schools and losing out to the higher-echelon schools, like the Big Ten and Big Eight programs, according to Bell.

However, Bell and national talent scout Tom Lemming believe Sadler and his staff have a good thing going with the recruitment of the seven players from Canada.

“It’s a unique situation for the football recruiting process,” Bell said. “We have no knowledge of how good they are, only the Northern staff does. We have no knowledge of their training.

“Sure, it’s a rarity, but it’s no different than the foreign students coming here to play basketball.

“It’s a real good move by Northern to go up to Canada,” said Lemming, editor of the Pro Football Report. “It’s really underrated up there, so it’s to their credit for finding those players.”

“You (as a coach) go where you can find players,” Bell added. “If he can find a place, he’ll find a fishing hole. Nobody else is up there getting these kids.”

Lemming said there shouldn’t be any backlash by the area high schools against NIU because of its Canadian connection. “They didn’t have much success in Chicago this year,” he said. “But one year is not going to make a difference.”