Leading up to a college football game with a local rival, there’s intense preparation: specific plays are put in by the coaching staff to take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses, hours are spent in film rooms analyzing the opponent’s plays and coaches plan for every possible game situation.
For the Sept. 18 nationally-televised game against Michigan Tech, NMU – not just the football team, but the university – is preparing just as meticulously.
Involving everyone on campus, from the athletic department to the faculty, to alumni, residence hall staff and students, NMU plans to showcase itself for the television audience.
More than 20 million homes nationwide will be able to view the game on CBS College Sports Network. The game will also be simulcast on Fox Sports Network (FSN) Detroit, which is available to 3.2 million households in Michigan, Northwest Ohio and Northwest Indiana.
NMU Athletic Director Ken Godfrey said the televised game provides a chance to show NMU, as well as Michigan Tech, to the rest of the country.
“There’s going to be people who tune in – and I hate to say it, but there are people out there who’ve never heard of Northern Michigan University. And this gives us an excellent opportunity to expose those people to Northern,” Godfrey said. “And, it’s not just us benefiting, it’s benefiting Michigan Tech, too.”
According to Godfrey, NMU was contacted in the first weeks of June by Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Commissioner Tom Brown about hosting a televised game. Two weeks later, plans had changed, and the NCAA was considering televising the Indianapolis-Hillsdale game on CBS College Sports Network.
Godfrey said he then e-mailed all parties involved with the scheduling of the games.
“The e-mail basically said, ‘I think they’re missing the boat. We’ve got a great rivalry here. Last year was one of the best games; it went down to the final play of the game on the one yard line,'” he said. “I said, ‘We have a very unique venue (in the Superior Dome) – as far as Division II college sports, we couldn’t have a better venue.’
Godfrey said a few weeks later he heard back from the GLIAC that NMU had been awarded the game.
The television contract NMU signed is with the NCAA and Godfrey said CBS is the company that was hired to produce and televise the game. The NCAA pays the fees involved with the broadcast.
The NMU-Tech game is one of six Division II football games to be broadcast on CBS College Sports Network this season. According to information provided by CBS, the NCAA is putting the six Division II football games on television in an effort to promote the NCAA Division II philosophy.
“The decision and the schedule decisions overall are made cooperatively between the NCAA and CBS College Sports Network,” said Tim Pernetti, executive vice president of content for CBS College Sports Network. “This partnership was hatched to grow D-II exposure together and in the process, showcase the top programs, matchups and rivalries in D-II sports.”
esn’t make any money from the contract with the NCAA, but a national television audience could provide more to the university.
“We don’t make any money off the game, or anything like that, but the exposure we get is tremendous,” he said. “It’s not just the athletic department, it’s Northern Michigan University – and it’s the whole U.P.”
Among the groups involved in the event are the Alumni Association, student groups and the NMU residence halls.
The NMU Alumni Association has teamed up with MTU alumni to hold joint watch parties for the football game in areas around the country. Areas with joint parties are Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Green Bay and Janesville, Wis.. There will also be NMU alumni parties in seven other locations around the U.S..
Deanna Hemmila, NMU’s director of alumni operations, said that while NMU has held around 25 watch parties for hockey games, this is the first football watch party, and that the help of MTU alumni has been welcomed in the preparation for the events across the nation.
“I think what’s really unique for us with Tech is that probably, at some point in an alum’s time on campus, they probably made a trip to Tech, or Tech alums came down to Marquette for something,” Hemmila said. “So there’s that U.P. bond. Even though we’re different schools, they had the same kind of U.P. experience when they were on a campus.”
“Yeah, we’re rivals, but you can sit down at a table with Tech fans and talk about very similar things,” she added.
Hemmila said the cost of these events was minimal, due to much of the contact information being spread via the internet, and “cost effective” considering the amount of people slated to attend. She said alumni were excited to see the football team play on national television and estimated 50 NMU alumni and friends would attend each of the 12 events.
“Bernie’s just been here a couple years now, so a lot of people haven’t seen his teams play,” Hemmila said. “Randy Awrey’s back, who’s an alum, and people are very excited about that, and (NMU hall of famer) Dick Koski’s coaching now.”
Brent Burns, MTU’s associate director of alumni relations, echoed Hemmila’s comment on U.P. pride.
“Wherever you are across the country, these two groups are both Yoopers,” Burns said.
Burns said around 500 people RSVPed for the Michigan Tech events around the country, which include other watch parties as far away as Denver and Reno, Nev.
Prior to the game, Michigan Tech will host a tailgate party at Marquette’s Tourist Park and will feature 110 members of the MTU pep band.
In addition to organizing the alumni, Godfrey said getting the campus ready for the game has included getting in contact with a variety of alumni for the broadcast, as well as the typical football things. Fans watching on television are scheduled to listen in on a conversation with former Lions head coach and NMU alum Steve Mariucci, as well as NMU alum and former University of Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. Michigan State basketball head coach and NMU alum Tom Izzo is slated to appear at the game, but Godfrey noted how busy Izzo’s schedule is.
“Until he walks in the door, I never know about Tommy,” Godfrey said. “He’s promised me he’ll be there, though.”
Amidst the demands, Godfrey has been aided by NMU Sports Information Director Dave Faiella, who has been providing information to the CBS crew since NMU learned it would be hosting the game.
“His life has changed drastically,” Godfrey said about Faiella’s efforts. “Along with taking care of everything else, he’s working with the CBS people, as well.”
Faiella said he’s had to provide more information for this week than any other week during the year.
“When you have a television game like this for a national level, the demands are just so much greater,” he said.
In preparing for the game, Godfrey said the main costs are due to marketing. Though he said it wasn’t possible to give a definite figure on how much would be spent before the game, he estimated costs at around $2,500.
“We’re trying to use every approach we can,” he said, in regards to marketing the game. “There’s a lot of people involved with this, and we’ve tried to pull together a lot of campus groups.”
Dave Bonsall, NMU’s Director of Student Enrichment, is an NMU alumnus as well. Bonsall said that while he was at NMU there were games of this magnitude, including a home game against Central Michigan University with 18,000 fans. Aside from NMU’s 1975 national championship game, though, none were ever on television.
“It’s one of those neat opportunities to be a part of,” Bonsall said. “I think a lot of students look back on things like this, and say, ‘That was one of the neat things I did when I was in college.'”
In preparation for the game, the main role of the Center for Student Enrichment has been to encourage students to attend, Bonsall said.
“We sent a note out to student groups and we just told them what a great opportunity this was for them, as an organization, with the chance to be visible,” he said.
The residence hall staff has been working on preparations for the game since NMU heard about the athletic department getting the go ahead in July.
Halverson Hall resident director Lindsey Sparks said that with the Marketplace being closed from 2 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., students will head down to the Dome to eat at the tailgate barbeque. She hoped they’d stay for the game.
“It sounds like everybody’s going to go from who we’re hearing from,” Sparks said. “Obviously football is one of those sports where either you like it or you don’t like it. We’re also trying to sell it as not just football, but going there and hanging out.”
Gant Hall Resident Director Dylan Shiver said he is hoping for students to attend the activities the university has organized for the game.
“Our main goal is that we just want to get students in the door and get them to go down to the game,” he said.
Shiver said Gant Hall residents seem excited about the upcoming game, as a whole.
“Overall, Gant Hall is way pumped up about it,” Shiver said. “They’re really excited because it’s a Thursday night game and it’s on television, and that never happens.”
Both Shiver and Sparks held hall get-togethers Wednesday night to make banners and signs and to get ready for Thursday’s game.
Once the final horn blows on the game, it’ll mark months of work coming to an end. And, if you ask NMU’s sports information director, it’ll be welcomed relief.
“I’ll be very happy when this is over,” Faiella said.
“But on the other hand, I think it’s a great opportunity for Northern Michigan University, for Marquette and for Michigan Tech to have a game on a national platform,” he added.