One of the first things he noticed was that the team’s facilities were inferior to those at some suburban Chicago high schools.
“It was quite broken. We really had nothing,” said Nevada athletic director Cary Groth, who held the same position at Northern Illinois from 1994-2004. “We had nothing. We had to – and I don’t mean disrespect to the young men that were in the program – but there was really no direction. There was no foundation to build upon. So we hired Joe and he came in and pretty much said, ‘Listen, I need some time. I need to do this the right way,’ and he did.”
NIU had suffered five consecutive losing seasons, with none worse than a 3-8 finish in 1995. That Northern Illinois team allowed a program-record 420 points, an average of 38.2 points per game, and hit their low-water mark down the stretch. The Huskies gave up at least 55 points in three of their past four games, all losses.
Sixteen years later, Northern Illinois is going to the Orange Bowl.
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.