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'It's a big flipping deal' – Merchandise expected to sell for NIU's Orange Bowl bid

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DeKALB – Holiday sales of Northern Illinois football merchandise at the Village Commons Bookstore normally doesn’t suffer too much, bolstered by out-of-town alumni in search of Christmas gifts.

But the store is expecting a huge spike in all things Huskies after Sunday night’s announcement that NIU earned a BCS bowl berth and will face Florida State next month in the Orange Bowl.

It’s the first time a Mid-American Conference team has qualified for one of college football’s premier post-season games, spurring national interest in NIU football on a weekend that started with the Huskies’ second-straight MAC championship and ended up Sunday night’s news NIU was bound for Miami.

“It’s a big flipping deal,” said Linda Christensen, the business manager at Village Commons and who has worked for the store for the past 28 years.

The store is already filled with NIU shirts, hats and other Huskies’ gear – even without any clothing celebrating either NIU’s MAC championship or the school’s Orange Bowl berth.

Store manager Jody Boardman said Monday morning she had already pre-ordered Orange Bowl material from two athletic clothing manufacturers last week before the Huskies knocked off then No. 17-ranked Kent State, 44-37, in double overtime Friday night in Detroit.

Christensen said the two long-time store employees spent Friday night texting back and forth, looking forward to what could be a big boost for their business. Boardman said she’s currently at the mercy of manufacturers who are scrambling to get Orange Bowl merchandise printed. She hopes to have the clothing shipped overnight and expectsit could be in stores as early as Tuesday.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said Boardman, who said she had already fielded a lot of interest in bowl merchandise by Monday morning.

Across the street from the bookstore, NIU students walked past a large construction digital sign that also recognized the football program’s historic achievement.

The digital read-out flashed the words, “Congrats NIU football – Orange Bowl Bound.”

Former NIU sports information director Mike Korcek called the occasion astounding after the Huskies broke into the upper crust of bowl games that until now, has been reserved for college football’s bigger and more elite programs. The Huskies have made one previous trip to south Florida, facing the University of Miami at the old Orange Bowl venue in 1986.

The Huskies (12-1) were ranked No. 15 in Sunday night’s BCS standings, jumping six spots following Friday night’s victory.

“What a big day for Northern Illinois and for the MAC,” said Korcek, who long chronicled NIU football history before retiring as the school’s top sports information officer in 2006. “It’s just mind-blowing.”

The news and upcoming trip to the Orange Bowl should usher in big business for the Village Commons, which only expects business to pick up once the Orange Bowl merchandise arrives.

“It’s going to be a Merry Christmas,” Christensen said.

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