Rod Carey on How the Florida State Road Trip Saved Jobs at NIU (Exclusive)

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The Northern Illinois Huskies are visiting Tallahassee this weekend to take on the Florida State Seminoles and it’s a trip that’s about much more than football. Yes, it’s an opportunity to face, and hopefully defeat, a traditional college football blue blood, but getting this game on the books has already yielded a major win for Northern Illinois University.

The 2013 Orange Bowl rematch replaces what had been a home date with Idaho on the NIU schedule. It’s also a $1.6 million payday, courtesy of Florida State University. This cash infusion helped save jobs in DeKalb, Illinois, where they were facing a massive budget shortfall. No, the current Seminoles are definitely not living up to the FSU brand, but this is a special game nonetheless.

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NIU leadership approached Huskies head coach Rod Carey about 18 months ago and told him that an opportunity for a money game existed at Florida State. Given the projected red in the upcoming ledger, Carey was told that they really needed to seize the opportunity.

“Obviously, at the time I wasn’t super thrilled about it in any way shape or form, but knowing that it was going to save jobs for our university and knowing that it was going to offset some things, it was really a no-brainer,” Carey said during our exclusive interview.

“Knowing it was going to save jobs, not just in the athletic department, but across campus you have to do it.”

NIU has lost $125 million in state funding over three years, due to the state of Illinois’ extreme budget crisis.

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The schedule was already one of the hardest in the nation before the date at Doak Campbell Stadium was added, but this was a chance that couldn’t be missed.

“And it was already tough, when you got Iowa, Utah and BYU already, and that was really good,” Carey continued.

“You had Florida State, obviously it goes up a notch. Happy to do it. It was our program’s opportunity to step up and help out the university so how can you not do that? I think you have to do it.”

“I think this is a little bit of an anomaly, this year, because of those things we just talked about, but certainly as a program we love taking on anybody.”

The Huskies players are extremely excited about this trip, and they expressed their thoughts and feelings on it at NIU Media Day.

The two teams last met in the 2013 Orange Bowl, where the Seminoles owned the line of scrimmage and dominated the total yardage battle. However, FSU led just 17-10 with 9:55 to play in the third quarter before eventually pulling away to a comfortable victory. That Florida State team was ranked #12 and would go on to win the national championship the very next season.

It was also Carey’s very first game as NIU Head Coach. He said he has a fond recall of that game, until the final score, and the pleasant memories of that game are due to the group of players he led into battle. It was also the only BCS bowl game to feature a MAC team.

“It’s taken me a long time to sort through all that because it was so fast and so furious,” Carey said of the run-up.

“There was no time to think. I still have my notes from from breaking down Florida State and it was very matter of fact.”

“It felt like this has to get done, and there wasn’t much thought into the magnitude, until very much later.”

For more on the Florida State game, both past and present, you can listen to audio of our exclusive with Carey below:

Also check back tomorrow for our NIU vs Florida State preview and prediction.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Sound Cloud and YouTube. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to any and all of his.

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