"The fact that Northern Illinois is in the BCS in 2012 is really a sad state for college football and where we are with the current system," Herbstreit said. "And the fact, thank goodness, we're moving toward a new system in 2014. They don't deserve to be in the BCS this year. Are you kidding me with Northern Illinois playing in the BCS?"
I texted my dad asking him could you believe what they're saying? I literally wanted to drive the 1,900 miles to Bristol, CT and smack the son of a bitch. This was the crowning moment in the history of the program and the network was shitting all over it. I shouldn't have come to expect anything less from ESPN. The same network they shoves Yankees/Red Sox down our throats all year long, the network that acts like the NHL doesn't exist (ok, they may be right on that) and the ones who gave us the LeBron James debacle known as The Decision. But nothing ESPN said could take this away from Huskie nation. Between the Northern Illinois Huskies and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish it has been an unforgettable college football season to say the least.
Living in Austin, Texas I have gotten used to the college football mania that infects this town every fall. College football is big in Texas and in the south in general. Coming from Chicago though I never gave much thought to college football. Chicago is a pro sports kind of a town. It’s all about the Bears there. College football was just a way to kill time until Sunday. Most folks there just root for their Alma matter or wherever their kids go. The smart kids went to the University of Illinois. Some of them went to the University of Iowa or Wisconsin. The real overachievers went o Northwestern or Notre Dame. Then the rest of them went to...Northern Illinois University. That's where the regular kids like me went.My father graduated from Northern Illinois in 1971. My brother Colin is currently living in DeKalb and attending school there. I attended school there myself from 2003-2005. In fact, I think half my friends and family attended school there at some point in their lives. Mostly everybody in Chicago knows somebody who goes or went to NIU. They are a de facto Chicago "home team" in a loose sense. The football program started to take off about ten years ago when I was there. They knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa back in 2003. They have produced a fair number of NFL players over the years. They have had an increasing number of national televised games each year. They are a perennial bowl team. Northern Illinois has become somewhat a powerhouse over the years (in a mid-major sense.) On New Year’s Day the program will reach its highest pinnacle yet. The Orange Bowl vs. Florida State (more on them later.)
I can't talk college football though without mentioning another Chicago area team. The #1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Like NIU, Notre Dame has a lot of alumni in the Chicagoland area. Being a bigger program Notre Dame has had more of a love-hate relationship with the locals. Mainly either you love them or you hate them. I was part of the latter. I had no room in my heart for a bunch of spoiled rich Catholic kids. I've hated too many of those types in my lifetime. Furthermore, I was still pissed about a game from 1993. Back then it was my favorite team, #1 Florida State vs. #2 Notre Dame in one of the most famous college games ever. Notre Dame knocked off FSU 31-24 by deflecting a last second pass from quarterback (and future New York Knick) Charlie Ward. I was heartbroken by the loss. Florida State did recover and won the championship that year. I've been a huge fan ever since. Meanwhile I've hated Notre Dame for the last nineteen years since...at least I thought I did?Funny thing happen this year though. Notre Dame opened the season in Dublin, Ireland last summer just after I had been there. They must have had a little luck of the Irish rub off on them. The unranked Irish won the opener and then won again the following week. Week after week they were grinding out wins with defense in an era where no one plays defense. It was very old school, almost like it was out of the 1960's. As each week went by I found myself actually rooting for them. I couldn't understand it...what had happened to me? It was impossible for me to not respect a team of real students (and smart ones at that) in a world full of pseudo student-athletes. I didn't think it was possible for Notre Dame to win big in the modern college sports era. I had been proven wrong. They knocked off USC in their final game and I was officially on the bandwagon.
So this January I'll be rooting for Notre Dame to win the National Championship over Alabama. I also will be putting my love of Florida State aside for one night. I will be rooting for my Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. In that case blood is thicker than water. Both teams will be heavy underdogs in their games. That doesn't matter much though. They have already done what was said couldn't be done. In some ways they've already won.
Go Irish, Go Huskies