DETROIT – Thomas Hammock says he believes expectations are tempered with a new coaching staff.
Even acknowledging the uncertainty in observers, he’s more than confident the on-field results will be noteworthy.
“I think there’s a reserved level of excitement, which is fine. New coach. New situation. Maybe not sure how all the dynamics are going to play out, but this is what I’m going to tell them,” Hammock said. “They better get on board now, because we’re going to build something that we think is special and sustaining for a long time. We don’t want the peaks and valleys that come with playing in the [MAC] at times. We want to be consistently good at all times.”
The Huskies were chosen to finish third in the MAC West by Mid-American Conference media and received one vote to win the conference title. Toledo was the favorite to win the West by the media, and Western Michigan was chosen second in the poll announced Tuesday at MAC Media Day.
NIU has won the MAC West seven of the past nine years.
Ohio received 13 out of 24 first-place votes to win the conference outright. Also receiving votes to win the conference were Toledo (seven), Western Michigan (two), NIU (one) and Central Michigan (one).
“We don’t really look at things like that, but it definitely adds a little extra motivation,” running back Tre Harbison said. “Either way it goes, we’re still defending MAC champs. They’re going to have to knock us off.”
For athletic director Sean Frazier, the continued public and private efforts of the NIU coaching staff has been an encouraging sight to see.
“They’re aggressive. They’re intentional. They’re very strategic on what their needs are, especially after coming off the MAC championship,” Frazier said. “I like the energy. I talked about this during Hammock’s press conference; there’s a hunger that I see that I haven’t seen in a while and it’s refreshing. It’s rejuvenating me on a different level. To have that hunger, that infectious way of saying, ‘Hey, get on board.’ I’ve noticed his staff, I’ve noticed the way Hammock has presented himself, the engagement of alumni, staff across campus, the community, it’s really uplifting. It’s exciting. Especially coming off a championship.”
The MAC announced Tuesday a new partnership with the Arizona Bowl for the 2020 bowl cycle, which will be competed against a Mountain West opponent.
“Whoever is fortunate enough to play in that game is going to have some great competition, and It’s a great location for our fan base,” Frazier said. “... We love our current bowl partners. Having something new, right? Tucson’s a great place. The weather at that time of the year, overall it’s a great destination.”
The conference also announced a four-year extension with CBS Sports Network to televise 12 football and 12 men’s basketball games a season through the 2022-23 season. The extension also allows for CBS Sports Network to continue televising the MAC men’s basketball tournament semis and women’s basketball tournament championship game.