On the same day Northern Illinois received the ultimate validation in the form of an Orange Bowl bid, offensive coordinator Rod Carey was annointed the leader of the Huskies' program. Carey was promoted to head coach one day after Dave Doeren accepted the same position at N.C. State.
In what has to be one of the most rare circumstances in college football history, Carey's first game as head coach will come in the biggest game in his school's history. If one press conference can be any indication, he'll be ready for it.
Northern Illinois has stated it wants to become the Boise State of the Midwest, and days like today are how you get there. The Huskies have put together winning seasons in nine of the last 11 years and are 34-7 over the past three seasons. Carey's move will instill continuity and help the program establish an identity. Bringing back all-everything quarterback Jordan Lynch next season helps, too.
Carey came across prepared and confident for his move to the big office. Jerry Kill left Dave Doeren a great foundation, and Doeren obviously did the same for Carey. The Huskies are 23-4 in the last two seasons with back-to-back Mid-American Conference titles.
"It's not what you can change, it's what you can keep," Carey said. "We've got a good thing going. We're going to keep our offensive system, our defensive system, our special teams. Will there be differences? Yes. But they'll be so small you guys might not even see them."
Carey said he intends on keeping every coach on the staff. "No one is going to be wanting for a job on this staff, and that's the way it should be," said Carey.
Carey arrived at Northern Illinois with Doeren in 2011, added run game coordinator responsiblities before this season and then assumed the role of offensive coordinator after Mike Dunlap stepped back due to health issues following the season-opener. A Wayzata, Minn., native, Carey played at Indiana from 1989-93 and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Minnesota from 1998-99. He then became the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Division III Wisconsin - Stout from 2000-06 before moving on to coach offensive line at Illinois State (2007) and North Dakota (2008-10).
For a guy who was a position coach at the FCS level as recently as three years ago, Carey suddenly has a very big, and very orange, opportunity ahead of him.