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NITZ: Doeren’s departure almost lost in the mix

It’s been an amazing 11 days for Northern Illinois football.

On Nov. 30, NIU won its second consecutive Mid-American Conference championship. Since then, the Huskies have earned an Orange Bowl berth and have become media darlings in the process, unless we’re talking about ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Jesse Palmer and David Pollack.

You know it’s been a good period for the football program when news of the coach who led NIU to this point, a guy who went 23-4 in two seasons at the school and left for N.C. State less than 24 hours after winning the MAC title, has gone under the radar.

Seriously, have people forgotten that Dave Doeren is now in Raleigh, N.C.? NIU had won one MAC title before he got here. Doeren won two in his short time in DeKalb, and he already is gone, not that it’s a complete surprise.

All season, people have asked me if I thought Doeren would be around in 2013. I honestly wasn’t sure.

I knew there would be interest, but I also thought, if he were to come back to DeKalb in 2013, Doeren would have another very good team, and an excellent shot at a third MAC title.

In the end, it’s tough to argue with a guy going from the MAC to the ACC. And while the N.C. State job isn’t one of the premier jobs in the country, it’s not exactly a complete rebuild. The Wolfpack are usually going bowling at the end of the season.

It’s also a nice step up in salary for Doeren, who will reportedly be making $1.8 million per season at N.C. State. At NIU this year, Doeren had a base salary of $420,000 after receiving a base salary of $371,000 last season. His buyout of $700,000 is almost as much as he made in his two years as Huskies head coach, so the school didn’t even lose much money paying him.

Doeren also handled the move with class. His players found out when their coach told them he was taking the job. The team didn’t learn about it via media reports — as was the case two years ago when Jerry Kill left for Minnesota.

The day after hoisting the MAC championship trophy in Detroit, Doeren told NIU’s players he was taking the N.C. State job, and the team gave him a standing ovation in the Yordon Center.

At the same time, you can’t help but wonder, “what if?” I’m not going to sit here and say Doeren made a bad move by taking the N.C. State job so quick, but you also can’t help but wonder what he could have done if he had stuck around DeKalb another year.

He would have had the chance coach his team in a BCS game. N.C. State has never been in the BCS, and the school’s last conference title came in 1979.

NIU will have a nice group of talent coming back next season, and should start the season in the top 25. Quarterback Jordan Lynch and the entire offensive line will have one more year of experience. This team could be very good next year, something that could have led to even better opportunities for Doeren.

Heck, if Doeren stuck around just a few more days, maybe he would have been in the mix at his former employer, Wisconsin, a job five times as good as N.C. State.

Doeren is just another coach in NIU history who used his success in DeKalb to jump to a bigger job. Bill Mallory left for Indiana after winning the school’s first MAC title in 1983. Jerry Pettibone went to Oregon State following the 1990 season. And younger NIU fans know about Kill and Doeren.

Being in the MAC, coaches leaving after a couple successful seasons is something NIU are probably used to at this point. If Rod Carey has a few good years as Huskies head coach, don’t be surprised if he’s eventually off to greener pastures.

Luckily for NIU fans, Doeren’s departure hasn’t been the biggest news on campus over the past week or so.

• Steve Nitz is the NIU beat writer for the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at

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