The Huskies' time in the Mid-American Conference could be coming to a close.
According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN, Northern Illinois is set to take part in an interview with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other conference leaders as a potential expansion candidate.
NIU was one of fourteen schools to be named by sources, with the report omitting the names of three schools, for a total of 17 programs to be considered by Bob Bowlsby, David Boren and the rest of the Big 12.
The announcement comes on the heels of NIU athletic director Sean Frazier saying "we have to say" that NIU is focused on the MAC in a press conference Tuesday morning.
NIU has stayed relatively mum on the issue of moving on to bigger waters, and as of yesterday, there has been no official correspondence between NIU and the Big 12, according to Jon Styf of The Northwest Herald.
Even still, just to be mentioned in the report is a big deal for a program the size of NIU.
Football tends to drive the conversation when it comes to expansion, so NIU's football prowess over the past decade is sure to be somewhat intriguing to the Big 12. Their success is undeniable, as they've made 11 bowl games since 2004 and are in the same sentence as Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Oregon in games won over the last six seasons. That's before we even mention NIU's seven-peat in the MAC West and multiple MAC Championships.
Frazier has also talked about ideally wanting to play all of NIU's games in "the Chicagoland area," so that could be a potential pitch that NIU makes to Big 12 officials, and it's not a bad one to play. Arguably, NIU has been the state's most successful football program over the last decade and is only a couple hours away from Chicago.
If the Midwest media market really matters that much for the Big 12, it's no surprise NIU would be considered.
A couple things could definitely hold the Huskies back. Their basketball program would be nowhere close to the rest of the Big 12, which houses traditional basketball powers such as Kansas. NIU's facilities would also look extremely lackluster next to other candidates that are also included in talks. NIU would have to invest a lot of money very quickly into their athletic department just to keep pace if they are indeed taken in. That could be foolhardy, as the state of Illinois is facing an education budget crisis.
Regardless, just the fact that NIU is being included in the discussion shows that the Huskies are on the radar as an athletic program and could stand to get more attention, especially as conferences start to realign after the Big 12's meeting in October.