College Football: NIU Hoping Orange Bowl Appearance Leads to an Admissions Boost

Former NIU head coach Dave Doeren’s helped lead the Huskies to the Orange Bowl and now the administration hopes to score a big time win in Miami for the long-term good of the university. Photo: AP New

In case you may have forgotten it, the Northern Illinois Huskies are set to take on the Florida State Seminoles in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day. And while their presence there was a controversial one to be certain, they made it into the bowl fair and square and now have an opportunity to make history for their football program on a big stage.

That said, as the players prepare to overcome the doubters that have made them a 13.5-point underdog to the ‘Noles, the NIU administration hopes that the national exposure will lead to an uptick in enrollment for the university—located about an hour outside of Chicago in Dekalb, Illinois.

“One thing we’re hoping for is the Flutie Effect,” said Paul Palian, director of media and public relations for NIU in DeKalb.

The Orange Bowl selection was announced Dec. 2. Between Dec. 3 and 5, NIU said, applications were up 19 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

A three-day jump isn’t a long-term trend, but it is good news for NIU and its ambitious growth plans — 30,000 students by 2020.

“Interest, as far as applications and inquiries at NIU, have been strong throughout the fall,” Palian said.

The Orange Bowl puts NIU on a national stage and in a hopeful frame of mind, months after the school announced that fall enrollment was down 5 percent at 21,869.
Boston College did see applications rise by 12 percent in 1984 and 16 percent in 1985. But a 2003 article in Boston College Magazine said the college already had been using market research, alumni networks, improvements to university housing and classrooms and financial aid to accelerate the school’s enrollment growth. In other words, there was a lot more going on at Boston College than just Doug Flutie. (Brian Leaf,

If I were the betting kind, I’d say the Huskies would be wise to enjoy their trip to Miami for what it’s worth—a trip no one ever imagined them making and not many look for them to come out of with a win—for the record, I do believe the Huskies are capable of giving Florida State all they could ever want and then some on the football field; it would not surprise me see the Huskies not only cover, but win the game outright—because I have been to Northern Illinois University and, to be quite honest, the best thing I can say about the school’s location is it would be nicer if not for some of the seedier characters.

There’s a reason it has a reputation for being one of the more dangerous universities in the nation and a win in the Orange Bowl isn’t likely to change that perception anytime soon; I don’t care how good Jordan Lynch plays.

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