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Pack your bags UNI football fans, it’s time to move

Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 14:12

Football

ERIC CLAUSEN/Northern Iowan

The UNI football team has averaged 8.8 wins per season over the past decade.

“UNI football shocks the BCS, headed to the Orange Bowl.”
That’s a headline University of Northern Iowa football fans can only dream about. However, you may hear it come from the mouths of many ill-informed college football “experts” in the coming weeks when they talk about Northern Illinois University crashing the Bowl Championship Series by sneaking into the Orange Bowl as a member of the Mid-American Conference. It’s NIU, not UNI…
… but it could be.

Financially, right now may not be the best time for UNI to make the move from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision. However, looking at this strictly through the eyes of a UNI sports fan, now is the time to move.

If UNI and NIU football were placed side-by-side, you may be surprised by how many similarities there actually are, aside from the similar abbreviations.

NIU was established in 1895 as the Northern Illinois State Normal School. In 1921 they became known as the Northern Illinois State Teachers College before being renamed Northern Illinois University in 1957. The two schools have similar endowments and undergraduate student enrollment numbers. DeKalb, Ill., has approximately 40,000 residents, as does Cedar Falls. And finally, the two schools have similar football attendance numbers while their programs are overshadowed by other FBS programs within their own states.

UNI could compete in the MAC; there is no doubt in my mind. I’m not going to say that the Missouri Valley Football Conference is as strong top to bottom as the MAC, but I’m also not going to say that the top teams in the MVFC couldn’t annually compete for conference titles in the MAC, and that includes UNI.

With the new BCS bowl/playoff setup coming in 2014-15, teams from the MAC and other nonautomatic qualifying conferences will have a better opportunity to make it into the BCS. Aside from that, every MAC school is projected to receive a $1.65 million payout this year for their bowl tie-ins, not to mention the seven schools that will get free national publicity while playing their bowl games on television.

The MAC makes perfect sense for UNI. However, I feel that the move would have to be strictly football - only for financial reasons. UNI could be even more dominant in their other sports as a part of the MAC as opposed to the Missouri Valley Conference. That speaks to how strong the MVC is. However, this needs to be a football-only discussion.

Financially, right now may not be the right time to make the move. However, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. It is entirely possible that a move to FBS football could lead to a boost in enrollment numbers for the university and bring in lots of money along with it. However, it’s also entirely possible that it won’t affect enrollment one bit and we will actually lose money.

UNI needs to seriously consider contacting the MAC and moving the football team from the FCS to the FBS, and they need to do it soon. With the way the college football landscape is changing, I don’t want to see UNI get left behind.

There is no question that the time to move is now. The only question is whether UNI is ready.

 

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