Mike Dunbar, a 35-year college coaching veteran whose résumé includes extensive experience as a head coach and offensive coordinator at every level of football, has joined the Northern Illinois University football program as offensive coordinator, NIU head coach Dave Doeren announced Wednesday.
“I am very excited to bring Mike Dunbar to Northern Illinois as our offensive coordinator,” Doeren said.
“Mike brings 25 years of play-calling experience, coupled with 12 years of head coaching experience. I had to compete against Mike four different times as a defensive coach – twice at Kansas and twice at Wisconsin – and I always came away with a great appreciation and respect for how good of an offensive coach he truly is.
“Mike is a guy that has tremendous passion for the game of football. He has coached at every level from high school to NCAA Division II, FCS, MAC and BCS programs. He’s worked with guys that are playing in the NFL today and developed some very successful offenses.”
Dunbar brings familiarity with the region and the Mid-American Conference, thanks to stints at Northwestern University (2001-06), where he served as offensive coordinator from 2002-06, and at the University of Toledo (1992-96), where he was offensive coordinator before adding assistant head coach duties in his final two years.
In between those two positions, Dunbar was the head football coach at the University of Northern Iowa from 1997-2000, compiling a 29-15 record as head coach. The Panthers were ranked in the FCS Top 25 every year of Dunbar’s tenure.
From Northwestern, Dunbar went to the University of California, where he was offensive coordinator in 2006 when Cal shared the Pac-10 title while scoring a league-leading 32.8 points per game. He returned to the Midwest as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Minnesota for the 2007 and 2008 campaigns. The Golden Gophers averaged more than 400 yards per game of total offense in 2007. Dunbar was the offensive coordinator at New Mexico State in 2010.
“It’s a great opportunity and an honor to join such an outstanding program and staff,” Dunbar said. “Knowing the history of the school with Coach Novak, Coach Kill and now Coach Doeren, especially with what he’s been able to accomplish in his first season, I am really looking forward to coming in and working with the players and coaches.
“I am very familiar with Northern Illinois, going back to my days at Toledo and then more recently at Northwestern and Minnesota,” he continued. “I’ve worked with guys that played and coached at NIU, so there are a lot of common threads, which gives me an understanding of what a great place this is.”
As the head coach at Central Washington from 1987-91, Dunbar was named Columbia Football Association Coach of the Year and the Kodak Region I Coach of the Year three times.
His Central Washington teams earned two No. 1 national rankings and in 1991, extended a regular-season win streak to 40 games, finishing 9-0. The Wildcats were also ranked among the NAIA Top 20 each year during his five-year stay. His overall record as a head coach at Central Washington and Northern Iowa is 83-24-1.
During his stint as offensive coordinator at Toledo, the Rockets set 21 offensive school records and went 11-0-1 with a Las Vegas Bowl victory in 1995. UT posted a 36-18-2 record during his five seasons in Toledo.
As offensive coordinator at Northwestern, Dunbar helped the Wildcats rank fourth in the country in total offense (500.3 ypg) in 2005. He tutored NU quarterback Brett Basanez, who set 30 Northwestern offensive records and ranks among the Big Ten’s all-time leaders in multiple categories.
Dunbar’s pupils have included current NFL players Marshawn Lynch (Seattle), Eric Decker (Denver) and Zach Strief (New Orleans), who played on Dunbar-coached offenses at Cal, Minnesota and Northwestern, respectively.
Doeren said Dunbar’s experience will benefit NIU players and staff.
“I feel really fortunate to have a coach with the experience and talent of Mike Dunbar joining our staff,” Doeren said. “Not only will he make our players better, he will make our coaches better. We’re excited that he and his wife Linda will be moving here from Washington to join the Huskie family.”
Dunbar takes over a Northern Illinois offense that returns three starters off a record-setting unit that averaged 38.3 points and 481.8 yards per game in 2011. The Huskies claimed the Mid-American Conference Championship for the first time since 1983, won 11 games overall and finished the season with nine straight victories, including one in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. versus Arkansas State.
Northern Illinois opens spring practice Wednesday, March 28, with the 2012 Spring Game scheduled for Saturday, April 21, at Huskie Stadium.
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.