DeKalb, Illinois is not that far from the city life of Chicago, but it may as well be in central Nebraska. From interstate 88, you can see Huskie Stadium, that is if the corn has already been harvested. Due to television contracts with ESPN, many Middle-American conference games fall on weekday nights, but that does not dull the enthusiasm. Many folks drive in from work and it may take a while to get adjusted to the college football mindset, but once the Huskies take the field to a barrage of fireworks, that ol’ Saturday feeling comes back.
Fans pass the large DeKalb watertower that proudly displays “Home of the Northern Illinois Huskies” as they move toward the parking lots paved over cornfields. Tailgating swells around the stadium with fraternity infused frivolity on one side and a more family friendly atmosphere on the other. Cars, trucks, and buses decked with red and black fill the open green spaces with pregame tailgating sizzle. The Huskie marching band weaves through the lot and stops to perform a few campus favorites and the NIU Fight Song. Victor E. Huskie, escorted by a host of cheerleaders, stops to snap pictures with fans all adding to the thrill of a classic college football afternoon.
Once in the stands focused on the game, it is easy to forget that MAC football is being played. The excitement of the crowd and loyalty of the fans help to gain a greater respect for the lower conferences in college football. The players fight hard, fans cheer loudly, and the band plays passionately.
Open in 1965, Huskie Stadium has maintained much of its charm. Upgrades and additions have improved the facility without stripping the traditional college feel. Northern Illinois has become a force in the conference which has translated to a pulsating energy on football gamedays in DeKalb.
Off the beaten path? Yes. But, school spirit is born in small towns that come to life when it comes time to celebrate the team that represents them.