DeKALB – It may have been the most hectic weekend in the history of the Northern Illinois University sports program. On Friday, Nov. 21, the Huskies defeated Kent State, 44-37, in double overtime to win their second straight Mid-American Conference championship. The next day, head coach Dave Doeren announced he was leaving to take a position with North Carolina State University. On Sunday, Nov. 23, the Huskies introduced his replacement just 15 minutes before learning they had won the right to play in the Discover Orange Bowl, the first time a MAC team had ever earned that honor.
The Huskies’ new head coach is Rod Carey, 42, who has spent the past two seasons on the Huskies’ coaching staff.
“When you have a program like this, it’s not about what you can change; it’s about what you can keep,” NIU’s 22nd head coach said. “We’ve got great players and we want to keep this ball rolling.”
Carey and his wife Tonya have two children, daughter Kennedi, 8, and son Charlie, 5.
During an informal press conference last week, Carey spent a few minutes with Midweek reporter Doug Oleson talking about the Huskies and the upcoming bowl game.
MidWeek: How did you find out Coach Doeren was leaving?
Rod Carey: He called me after the game. He called all the coaches, then we held a team meeting to tell the team.
MW: So how did you become head coach? Did you have to apply for it?
RC: Right after (Doeren) called, I got a call from Jeff Compher asking if I was interested in the job, and I said I was. ...That night we met with him and President John Peters and got to know each other.
We met again the next day. We didn’t finalize the deal until 15 minutes before the Orange Bowl announcement.
MW: Did you get an inkling that Coach Doeren was leaving?
RC: No, I didn’t. When you’re getting ready for a championship game, you’re too busy to notice.
MW: Have you ever experienced such a hectic weekend?
RC: No, not even close, but I’m excited. My head hasn’t stopped spinning.
MW: So what’s it like knowing your first game as a college head coach is in the Orange Bowl?
RC: It’s surreal.
MW: Do you think being an assistant for the team played a part in your hiring?
RC: Part of the reason I got the job, they wanted a seamless transition.
MW: The Orange Bowl isn’t until Jan. 1. How much time will you practice to get your team ready?
RC: We’ll give them some time to heal their bodies, then they have finals. You give them two weeks and then you get ready with bowl preparations.
MW: Is this the biggest thing ever for NIU?
RC: I don’t want to get arrogant and say it’s the biggest event ever. It’s a big university. But it’s up there.
MW: What do you think of all the attention the Huskies have been getting nationally?
RC: I’m not surprised with the national attention. That’s what we play for.
MW: Have you asked advice from other coaches?
RC: I’ve called every coach I’ve ever played for and asked for advice. I’ve gotten a lot of advice. The best is: Don’t rush into anything.
MW: Have you talked to Bill Mallory?
RC: Yes. He told me to take all the opinions and then go with your gut.
MW: What do you think of your opponent, Florida State?
RC: They’re awesome. They have a great team, great players and a great coaching staff. They’re used to being there.
MW: After some of the criticism the Huskies got when the bowl announcement was made, do you think that will put a chip on your players’ shoulders?
RC: If you play the MAC, you always have a chip on your shoulder. I don’t know it can get any bigger.
MW: What do you think this will do for future recruiting?
RC: I think we have a great recruiting class right here. ...I don’t think you have to sell this year.
MW: What’s the biggest difference between being an assistant coach and the head coach?
RC: I don’t sleep at night.