Carey perfect choice to lead NIU through transition
DEKALB -- When coach Dave Doeren told Jeff Compher following the Mid-American Conference championship game that he was leaving to take the North Carolina State job, the Northern Illinois athletic director needed only to make one phone call.
That call went to Rod Carey, the Huskies' interim offensive coordinator, who was offered the job as NIU head coach and accepted.
Compher never interviewed anyone else.
"I didn't really want to talk to anybody else because our program is not broken," Compher said. "It's just the opposite. It's working really well and I didn't feel like this team needed to go through another major coaching change for their third head coach in three years.
"That didn't make sense to me. I felt having consistency was more important."
Compher did reach out to the players and had his choice confirmed.
"What I did was talk to the players about what they were looking for in a coach and not who they were looking for in a coach," Compher said. "I think it's important we looked for the characteristics that will allow our program to continue on this path.
"Their input was confirming because I had already been talking to Rod and wanted to be sure that my initial thoughts and assessment of his abilities matched up with what I thought the student athletes wanted."
So Carey was thrust into the spotlight at the craziest time in school football history and will make his head-coaching debut against Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1 in Miami.
Carey, who started the season coaching the offensive line then took over as coordinator when Mike Dunbar was diagnosed with cancer, will continue to call all the plays for the sake of continuity.
"We're trying to make it the least amount of change for this team as possible," Carey said. "I'm coaching the O-line, being the (offensive coordinator). I guess I'll be on the sideline and doing some head-coaching things, too. If the change is me, that's better than having 105 players changing."
It's the head-coaching stuff that Carey is still getting used to.
"I'm used to coaching the O-line the entire time," Carey said. "It's weird. You walk around not doing anything. You get bored quick."
Quarterback Jordan Lynch is happy to have Carey calling plays.
"Nothing really changes," Lynch said. "We're going to do what we did for the last 12 weeks. Do what we did, and come out and play fast -- how we normally do it."
Senior defensive end Sean Progar was happy with the choice of Carey.
"He has a different personality (than Doeren)," Progar said. "I think he meshes well with the team. I think it was good for them to bring in someone that knows what we do, both individually and as a team, and knows what we're all about.
"I think the way he's run things so far has been smooth; he hasn't changed much. We've kept our routine, and I think that's big for us going into the game."
Carey has kept in touch with Doeren as well as talked with former NIU coaches Bill Mallory, Joe Novak and Jerry Kill.
Carey said he has spoken with Doeren "a ton" on the phone.
"We couldn't have kept this staff together the way we have if Dave and I hadn't been in constant communication," Carey said. "I give a lot of credit to him on this and I've talked to him about this team. He was our head coach this year. He led this team. He set tones. He did those things, in all, really well.
"We're 12-1 so, yeah, have I leaned on him, and I'm going to lean on him a little more in the next two weeks."
Carey said he has spent more time on the phone in the last two weeks than he has in his entire life.
"That's me calling around asking advice, to be quite honest," Carey said. "I've spent time on the phone with Coach Mallory, Coach Novak. I even had a conversation with Coach Kill, and obviously Coach Doeren.
"And some other people out there that are head coaches that I've reached out to for advice, because this is all new for me."