It didn't take Dave Doeren 24 hours before winning the MAC Championship to leave for NC State, and NIU athletic director Jeff Compher acted equally speedy by promoting Rod Carey to head coach right before it became official they were playing in the Orange Bowl.
How's that for a quick progression up the coaching tree? Starting the season Carey's official title was offensive line coach/run game coordinator. That turned into offensive coordinator after the first week once Mike Dunbar stepped aside to focus on his fight with cancer. And within 24 hours of news leaking that Doeren jetted to North Carolina State to cash in on his obvious value, NIU did the correct thing by naming Carey his head coach.
So in three months he went from positional coach of a MAC champion to head coach of a team going to the Orange Bowl.
I don't blame Doeren for leaving. He ain't the first and won't be the last. Coming into the season I was pretty sure another MAC West title would solidify his transformation into a bigger school coach. He had it written all over him. I didn't expect a move out of the Midwest, but coaching talent like that can move and recruit anywhere.
As for the Carey move, again this follows suit with how to succeed and remain stable in the conference: keep who you got. Remember last year, Toledo quickly replaced Tim Beckman with Matt Campbell. It wasn't perceived nationally as a good hire because Campbell was just a MAC coordinator, but a 9-3 season later, he dispelled a theory that the best coaches are those with big school experience. Although Campbell happened in about three days; Carey was named the permanent guy in just 24 hours; I had to re-read and squint a couple times to make sure this wasn't on an interim agreement.
Carey played college ball at Indiana and had a year of grad assistant experience at Minnesota, but beyond that all his stops have been FCS or smaller: North Dakota, Illinois State, Wisconsin-Stout. His experience with the offensive line and running game was obviously a huge part of NIU's success this year, especially when the team lost Logan Pegram for the year and routinely moved the ball with success using two freshmen and zero seniors, not to mention losing Leighton Settle late in the year with injury. Even after Tyler Loos went down two weeks ago, this Huskies run attack has not slowed down.
Timing was also a factor. Had Doeren left in mid-January and not Saturday, it's possible Jeff Compher sits back and goes through a more standard hiring process. But it was important to get a coach lined up and retain as much of this staff as possible to keep the team intact and focused on the MAC's biggest bowl game in its 66-year history.
And if all goes according to plan, Compher will have to worry about hiring a new head coach in a few years.