DeKALB – The sense of urgency from Northern Illinois Athletic Director Sean Frazier was palpable as he was clear-cut about his expectations for the new football coaching search.
The Huskies are looking for the 23rd individual to lead the Huskie football program after Rod Carey was named Temple’s head coach on Friday after a week of speculation.
“We’re not [just] trying to get to a championship, we’re looking for someone who quite frankly understands the expectations at the FBS level and understands that that’s an absolute for us,” Frazier said. “This is not a blow ‘em up, build ‘em up. We’re already built up. We want to take it to the next level. That’s [College Football Playoff], access bowl, national branding.”
Frazier said he was resolute in trying to get a quick decision, but he only made note of a “short list” without addressing names.
While names have floated around in social media circles, Frazier was not forthcoming about any names of interest to the job. He expressed excitement about the interest in the position.
“I think it’s important being transparent. I’m not going to comment about the process because the process is not going to take very long,” Frazier said. “But at the end of the day, that’s why I’m not going to comment about it, because I’m going to be working and I’m not going to have time to be giving updates every 5 seconds about who, what and when, when I need to make sure I evaluate and do the best I can to get the right person here and include the right people in the process. That’s really the reason we won’t comment about who’s in it. We need to protect those individuals.
“I can’t give you a particular timeline, but I can say we won’t have grass growing under our feet on that.”
Frazier said that Carey was “really up front about Temple’s interest.”
“[Thursday] was probably the real signification of it, and I think [Friday] was really more of the signing the paperwork for confirmation from the official word, because they were still interviewing and all that kind of stuff,” Frazier said when asked about the timeline of the hire.
Carey takes over a Temple program on its third coach in the last month after former Owls coach Geoff Collins departed for Georgia Tech and Manny Diaz went from Miami to Temple and back to Miami over the span of 18 days. That spawned a new coaching search that began on Dec. 30.
“I know from the people I’ve met that this is where I want to be,” Carey said. “I told [Temple athletic director] Dr. [Patrick] Kraft as we were going through this whole thing, ‘Put whatever
buyout you want on this. I don’t care.’ That’s not important to me. What’s important to me is I want to be here, and the track record I have proves it. I’ve said that no other times when I was at NIU. But this was the right time and the right place.”
Carey went 52-30 in his tenure at NIU, winning two MAC championships. Those 52 wins made him the second-winningest active MAC coach behind Ohio’s Frank Solich. Carey was 38-10 in MAC games.
In Carey’s first two seasons, he won won 12 games (2013) and 11 games (2014) before putting together win totals of 8, 5, 8 and 8 over the next four seasons. The Huskies capped 2018 with a Mid-American Conference Championship before a loss in the Boca Raton Bowl. The Huskies lost each of the six bowl games of Carey’s tenure as head coach.
Carey, who originally was the offensive line coach when he came to NIU from North Dakota in 2011, went from O-line coach to shared duties between that and offensive coordinator in the fall of 2012 before becoming the head coach before NIU’s Orange Bowl appearance.
“Rod has been a part of the Huskie program – as an assistant coach from 2010-12 and as head coach for the past six seasons – during the most successful era in NIU’s FBS history,” Frazier said earlier Friday in a press release. “He has worked tirelessly to elevate NIU Football and Northern Illinois University, while making an impact on hundreds of student-athletes. Under Rod’s leadership, the Huskies have been successful on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I want to thank Rod, [his wife] Tonya, [daughter] Kennedi and [son] Charlie for their dedication to NIU, and wish them nothing but the best going forward.”
This will mark the first time Carey has coached outside of the Midwest. Carey’s previous collegiate coaching stops included Minnesota as a graduate assistant (1998-99), Wisconsin-Stout (2000-06), Illinois State (2007), North Dakota (2008-10) and NIU (2011-18).
Carey addressed the team Friday morning about his decision to move on to Temple.
“I’m not going to get too much into that because it will get too emotional,” Carey said. “I met with a lot of the team that was back, and it was a wonderful way to say goodbye. But it was hard to say goodbye.”
Frazier, who is now looking to hire his first football coach since taking the AD job in 2013, was present for the meeting with the team to address the departure and future expectations for the Huskies. While he was a player at Alabama, the Crimson Tide went through two coaching changes over the course of his playing career.
“It was a very eerie feeling with them, because I saw myself looking out at the student athletes and me saying exactly what I heard,” Frazier said. “They’re fired up. They know what we have coming back. They know what they accomplished this year.”
Frazier said he told the players he knew it was emotional.
“Not a little bit, it’s a lot emotional,” Frazier said. “I had three different coaches, and it was kind of a déja vu. Because the same thing I did with them, the same thing happened.”
Under Carey’s most recent contract extension, NIU will be owed an $800,000 buyout. Temple is receiving a combined $6.5 million from two separate buyouts occurring within the last month from the situation with Collins and Diaz.