By: Nate Murphy (@bigmurph23)
On Thursday October 19th at approximately 10 P.M. central time, we saw the end of an era in the CFSL. On a fourth down in overtime the underdog Northern Illinois Huskies lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt by freshman kicker Panzer Brighton. Dealing with the rain, the wind, and the pressure Panzer paced off his steps. He nodded his head letting his holder know he was ready, then calmly sent the football end over end through the rainy night sky. The kick was good and NIU had upset the Eastern Michigan Eagles in what looks to be the final MAC game ever in the CFSL.
But that is part of what has always made the MAC so great. Two teams going at it, both with rosters full of guys with that chip on their shoulders, trying to prove something.
Our very own El Presidente has been a part of many locker rooms throughout the league’s history so I asked him what he thought was the difference in the power conferences and what the MAC represented. And he said the same thing. “I think it’s the underdog mentality. The Power 2 talks about the MAC as the little brother. That leads teams and players to have a chip on their shoulder. They wanted to prove they belong just as much as any other team or player in the league.” And he is right, that’s the joke right? A struggling P2 team is often jokingly (maybe not always jokingly) referred to as a MAC team. It is supposed to be a slight at the power conference team but it does put that insult squarely on the “inferior” conference.
But since I’ve been a part of the league the MAC wasn’t about how great the team was. It was more about having a landing spot and having a chance to show what you’ve got as a player in hopes of being recruited by a power conference school the next season.
I spoke to the TDSav, the man behind the legend that was Thor Savage. Though he had only been in the league for a couple of seasons at the time he said this, “I was considered a vet by MAC standards and got to hype up the locker room and share my love and passion for the league with so many new users.” As far as what it meant on the field of play TDSav loved the experience. Especially as a QB it gave him some freedoms and liberty, “Furthermore, as a QB the MAC gave me the opportunity to throw the ball as many times as I could and put up some big numbers. This leadership role as a freshman helped develop Thor Savage into the marshmallow man we all know and love.”
Not only that it was a place for a coach to prove his mettle. And that is what Hall of Fame AD Josh Claydon (Wookie) did. He cut his teeth in the MAC at NIU before moving on and eventually winning 17 consecutive games and two consecutive national championships at Notre Dame. One of Josh’s coaches from his ND staff followed in his footsteps and also took a head coaching role at Northern Illinois. Andrew Brandt led the Huskies to the MAC title in season 17 and come season 19 he will be the AD tasked with bringing the Syracuse Orange into the CFSL.
I asked Andrew (silentninja) about his experience in the MAC. He described the MAC as a brotherhood. Not just between those in his NIU locker room, but the entire MAC in general, “The MAC was very different from the rest of the league because, while we had our quarrels, there was a strong sense of brotherhood. We even see this with former MAC players on power teams. The other coaches and myself had to overcome the past iteration of the MAC to the more established members of the league, and sell six new teams to new and old members alike.” When talking about his experience coaching in the MAC he said this, “My three seasons has taught me to trust in myself and even more so the teammates that came along for the ride. The ‘proving ground’, to me, was all about confidence in your game plan, teammates, and yourself. I’ve learned more about myself and what I need to do as a coach in every loss more than every win.” How about what the future holds for Andrew? “I’m grateful my hard work was recognized in the MAC, so I’m excited to be chosen to lead Syracuse, and this new chapter of coaching is going to be even more exciting. #Huskie4Life.”
So the MAC may no longer be part of the fun of the CFSL on screen. But the Mid-American Conference will always live on. Whether it be with AD’s such as Josh and Andrew. Or any of the new group coming from the MAC such as CJ Furman from BGSU or Ryan Recca from Kent State. They will have a lot to live up too but after watching the MAC for the past few seasons I have no doubt that they will step into their new roles and find success.
The MAC brought us a lot of satisMACtion and it will be missed.