Northern Illinois University student-athletes from all 17 sports will honor the memory of iconic former Director of Athletics Robert J. Brigham, by wearing patches or stickers bearing his initials throughout the 2014-15 academic year.
“RJB” stickers will be worn on the helmets of the football, baseball and softball teams, while patches bearing the initials will be sewn onto the warm-ups, in-game uniforms or hats of every other Huskie sports team.
Brigham, a World War II veteran whose association with NIU began in 1946 as a football player and wrestler and continued for more than 50 years, including 19 as the Huskies’ director of athletics, died May 25 in DeKalb. He was 90.
He made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of NIU student-athletes that continues to this day.
As the Huskies’ athletic director from 1968-87, he took NIU from NCAA College Division to University Division (or major college) status, oversaw the Huskies’ admission to the Mid-American Conference in 1973, enhanced NIU’s athletics facilities and saw multiple teams qualify for NCAA championships competition.
After leaving the AD’s chair, Brigham became the special assistant to the president. In that role, he managed the university’s compliance obligations until his retirement in 2001.
In 2003, the playing surface at Huskie Stadium was named “Brigham Field” in his honor and the North End Zone is officially known as the Brigham Family Plaza in honor of him and his family. Brigham entered the NIU Physical Education Hall of Fame in 1987 and was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1991, he received the F. R. “Bud” Geigle Outstanding Service Award from the NIU Foundation.
Prior to becoming athletics director, Brigham spent 11 seasons as NIU’s head wrestling coach while also serving as an assistant football coach. He posted a record of 82-45-6 in wrestling dual meets and coached five individual national champions and 11 All-America selections. As a member of Hall of Fame football coach Howard Fletcher’s staff, he helped the 1963 Huskies to a 10-0-0 season and the College Division National Championship.
Brigham’s affiliation with NIU began as a football student-athlete following a distinguished Navy career in World War II.
Despite being cut by Coach George “Chick” Evans in his freshman season, he returned a year later and eventually earned distinction as a member of the “Pony Backfield” at NIU. He finished his playing career as a three-year letterwinner in football and also lettered one season in wrestling before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1949. .
In addition to the stickers and patches, the Huskies will honor Brigham with a celebration of his accomplishments, his life and his dedication to Northern Illinois University and NIU Athletics at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.