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Applications to NIU surge in wake of Orange Bowl pick

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University saw a double-digit jump in applications after the Orange Bowl announcement, but university leaders expect to see a lasting effect in the 2014-15 academic year.

NIU’s Office of Admissions saw a 19.3 percent increase over last year in applications submitted between Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, the days immediately after the Dec. 2 announcement that the Huskies football team is headed to Miami for the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1.

Director of Admissions Kimberley Buster-Williams said the bump was noticeable because there was more activity than they usually see at that time. They have been conducting tours on Saturdays and have extended some hours until the holiday break.

NIU spokesman Paul Palian said he’s hopeful the true impact will come later on.

“I’m sure that kind of publicity is going to put NIU in the national conversation, perhaps give us some national attention we typically don’t have this time of year,” Buster-Williams said.

The national conversation about the NIU football team hasn’t been all positive. A recent SportsNation poll on ESPN’s website shows 60 percent of people think NIU does not deserve a BCS bowl bid. The poll received 202,441 votes.

Student ambassador and NIU senior Pettee Guerrero disagrees.

“They put out a lot of hard work ... we belong there. We won every game we were supposed to,” she said.

As an ambassador, Guerrero gives tours to prospective students. She said some of them are not really interested in the football team, “but towards the end of the semester, all they wanted to talk about was our football team.”

It is that interest that Buster-Williams uses when talking about NIU with other schools that have earned high profile bowl berths. The Flutie Effect, named for Doug Flutie of Boston College and his game-winning touchdown pass in 1984, is a phenomenon in which a college receives more applications after their football team’s success.

Buster-Williams said the Flutie Effect will likely impact the university in academic year 2014-15. History shows that colleges see a slight bump the year after bowl bids, but it is the year after when it will have a bigger impact, she said.

“It’s exciting, but I think we’re prepared,” Buster-Williams said. “The admissions office is prepared to manage whatever comes our way in terms of volume.”

All through fall, the Office of Admissions has seen strong interest, Buster-Williams said. Despite some negative news – the “coffee fund” scandal, the shake-up of the NIU police department, and freshman David Bogenberger’s death – students kept applying to the university.

The deadline for high school students applying to NIU for academic year 2013-14 is Aug. 1.

NIU will continue to accept ticket orders for the Orange Bowl game through the NIU Athletics Ticket Office through Sunday.

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