The End of Remarkable Era in NIU Huskie Football

It may not be the bowl game many wanted, but tonight's Poinsettia Bowl will mark the end of a special time for Huskie fans.
DEKALB -- Huskie fans cannot be blamed for viewing NIU's appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl as a bit anti-climatic.  After all, many were dreaming of wearing Fiesta Hats in Phoenix on New Year's Day, rather than being force fed Poinsettias while watching TV in their living rooms on the night after Christmas.  The good news -- Poinsettia  flowers really aren't all that poisonous.

But while the disappointment of losing a MAC Championship game where the opponent's receivers at times seemed more open than a K-Mart on Black Friday may linger, ruining the Huskies chance for a second straight major bowl appearance, there is something for fans to savor if they are willing to stay up for the unusually late 8:30pm Thursday night kickoff.  The Poinsettia Bowl will represent the end of a remarkable era in Northern Illinois football.

We'll call it the 'Lynch Era,' after the quarterback who shredded the NIU football record book with both his arm and his legs, earning himself an invite to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.  The 'Lynch Era' was a spectacular success, where wins were the expectation and what few losses there were never came in front of the home crowd.  It's been an absolutely glorious run worthy of telling your grandchildren about on Christmas night, 2053.

But with Jordan Lynch's graduation, uncertainty will soon enough fill the void.  The team will almost certainly not be as good next year.  History suggests it's unlikely they'll be this good again for some time -- if ever.

This year also marks the end of the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS era, a college system designed to support big schools, but also one that turned into a big boost for select smaller ones.  NIU in the Lynch Era was one of a few 'BCS Busters' to get invited to the big boy bowl game party.  Boise State is seen as the prototypical 'BCS Buster,' but the lessons of the Broncos and other 'Busters' is it is very hard for a non-BCS conference school to stay on top.  Utah was the first 'Buster,' joined by Boise State, TCU, Hawaii and NIU.  Most of those teams were ordinary to downright bad in 2013.  Even Boise State's fortunes appear to be on the decline, accelerated by the departure of a head coach who made the school synonymous with the made up term 'trickeration.'  He's going to Washington, a bigger school which will reward him handsomely.

And so it will likely be with NIU.  Even if Head Coach Rod Carey can somehow keep winning (and that's a big challenge without Lynch), bigger schools with wealthier boosters will then find a way to lure him away, just as they did with his predecessor.  The system is simply not set up for a school like NIU to keep up with universities with larger fan and recruiting bases willing to write far larger checks.

Lynch too may look back at 2013 as the pinnacle of his football career.  The cruel truth is that his skills sets are not easily suited to a career playing in the NFL.  Lynch most resembles Tim Tebow, a Heisman-winning quarterback from Florida who can't find a job with a National Football League team.  Lynch is to be credited with showing a willingness to change positions and do whatever it takes to keep playing, but in a pro football world where his 40 yard dash times would be considered 'slow' and his passing accuracy questioned, it's hard to see where he might fit.

But that's all about tomorrow.  Tonight, the NIU Huskies will play the final game of the Lynch Era.  Even if you're not an NIU fan, it's worth staying up to say you witnessed the end of a remarkable time.  Your grandchildren will thank you for it.
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