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KORCEK'S CORNER: Lynch’s numbers hard to fathom

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Eight collegiate sports items you might have missed:

Item No. 1: Revisit the prolific, mind-boggling 2012 statistics for Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch – America’s first NCAA FBS performer to pass for 3,000 yards (3,183) and rush for 1,500 yards (1,815) in a single season – and you wonder: Can you really comprehend the proper historical context or perspective of all this?

• Seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting

• Two Mid-American Conference, four NCAA and 14 NIU records

• Second-Team All-America

• Vern Smith Trophy recipient as the MAC MVP

Not bad for a first-year starter. Any where.

“Lynch for 6” produced more touchdowns (44) a year ago than 50 FBS programs and outrushed 43 entire teams.

His school-record 4,953 yards of individual total offense has been exceeded only five times since 1948 by NIU as a team (5,265 yards in 2004; 5,329 in 2005; 6,300 in 2010; 6,664 in 2011; and 6,574 in 2012). Only Texas A&M’s Johnny “Football” Manziel (5,116) created more total offense in 2012. Think about it.

Compared to recent All-America QB types, Lynch manufactured more total offense last season than Heisman Trophy recipients Andre Ware of Houston (4,661 yards in 1989) and Cam Newton of Auburn (4,327 in 2010), plus BYU’s Jim McMahon (4,627 in 1980) and Texas’ Vince Young (4,086 in 2005). Impressive company, No. 6.  

I’m not claiming Lynch is better than any of the players in the last paragraph, but the numbers speak for themselves. Production, production, production.

Item No. 2: I couldn’t resist. Curious about Kirk Herbstreit’s best single-season stats at Ohio State?

Just FYI, our favorite ESPN college football analyst and ex-QB completed 155-of-264 passes for 1,904 yards and four TDs and rushed for minus-29 yards on 75 carries for 1,875 yards total offense in 1992. At least “Herby” has been decent on air regarding Lynch. But being forewarned is forearmed. Yeah, the devil made me do it.

Item No. 3: This question came up at last week’s Brigham-Novak Classic golf outing: When would tailback Michael Turner be inducted into NIU’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Relax. “The Burner” (unless he holds up a bank in the interim, just kidding) is a lock for that honor. Let him retire from the NFL first (see Item No. 4).

Instead, why not review the HOF credentials for ex-Huskie TB Thomas Hammock (1999-2002)? Talk about the ultimate student-athlete.

Team captain, two-time First-Team All-MAC, repeat First-Team CoSIDA Academic All-America, and back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns in 2000 and 2001 before being sidelined by a heart condition as a senior.

Hammock regrouped and went into coaching. During the past decade, he has been an assistant at Wisconsin (2003-04, 2011-13), NIU (2005-06) and Minnesota (2007-10) and coached in seven bowl games. Can you say successful?

Item No. 4: Speaking of “The Burner,” Turner might not be done with the NFL. Released by the Atlanta Falcons this spring, the two-time All-Pro running back is an unsigned free agent and not in any training camp right now. You have to think that once a few NFL teams suffer some attrition at RB in the preseason, general managers will be calling. Turner (7,338 yards rushing and 66 TDs in nine NFL seasons) still can be productive in special situations.

Item No. 5: Everything is on the Internet. Right? Wrong.

In an Associated Press story from MAC Football Media Day in Detroit last week (and that ran in the DeKalb Daily Chronicle), there were some historical errors that appear to originate on the league’s official website. And if the MAC does not know its own history, who does? 

In essence, the article was a positive piece on the MAC, particularly its stability in a bizarre FBS environment filled with conference-swapping and ethical dilemmas that often belie Division I intercollegiate athletics and higher education. 

Somehow either the league officials or the media cannot figure the difference between dates of overall MAC affiliation and conference eligibility, specifically, in football – which I believe this particular AP story was about.

To wit: If you are talking football only, then NIU’s MAC affiliation starts in fall 1975, runs though the fall of 1985, and began again in fall 1997 to the present. Technically, NIU’s final academic year in its initial MAC tenure was 1985-86 (winter and spring sports, remember?). Officially, the NIU men’s programs gained admittance into the MAC on March 5, 1973, and competed in their first league championship in cross country on Nov. 3, 1973.

Both the AP story and MAC website listed Central Michigan (1971), Eastern Michigan (1971) and Ball State (1973) league entry dates, but all three institutions – along with NIU – were not integrated into the MAC football schedule until fall 1975. Apples and oranges, you say?

No, for the sake of consistency, either the official date of admittance – in this case, CMU (1971), EMU (1971), BSU (1973) and NIU (1973) – should be publicized or, in the case of football – CMU (1975), EMU (1975), BSU (1975) and NIU (1975). Administrators need to make a decision here so the league history is portrayed accurately.

My reliable source: The 1974 and 1979 “MAC Records Book.” Yes, actual books.

Item No. 6: Confused? Wait until you read this. Mike, didn’t you say the Huskies joined the MAC for football in 1975? Yes. So how did Hall of Fame NIU fullback Mark Kellar get named MAC Player of the Week vs. Ball State and Illinois State in (gasp) 1973? It’s true. How? Who? Why?

Two words: Bud Nangle. The HOF NIU sports information director marketed Kellar aggressively and lobbied the MAC office heavily. Nangle’s rationale? Why not promote the league’s newest member with a student-athlete who would lead the nation in rushing (1,719 yards) that fall? Made sense to me.

Item No. 7: Sad news on the passing of National Football Foundation historian Pat Harmon, 97, on July 28. A contemporary and close friend of Hall of Fame NIU head football coach Howard Fletcher, Harmon began his sportswriting career at age 17 at the Freeport Journal-Standard in 1933. He worked at the Champaign News-Gazette during his student days at the University of Illinois and then moved up to the Cincinnati Post in 1951.

Known for hitch-hiking all over the midwest to cover football, Harmon staffed “Fletch’s” games as a prep at Streator High School, as a collegian at NIU (1938-39), as head coach at West Chicago High School and Cincinnati Walnut Hills High School, plus his 13-year tenure with the Huskies (1956-68).

Harmon was a true gentleman who knew the game. Several times as a reporter, Harmon stayed at the home of AD George “Chick” Evans. Fletcher passed away in 2001.

Item No. 8: Great news on the naming of Tommy Bell as the new athletics director at Western Illinois this month. After six years as the AD at IUPU-Fort Wayne, Bell moved up to the FCS ranks. Before that he worked in athletics development at SIU-Carbondale and NIU (1990-99).

The Bell family lived in Sycamore for years. Couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Congrats, J.T.

• Mike Korcek is a former NIU sports information director. His historical perspective on NIU athletics appears periodically in the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at sports@daily-chronicle.com.

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