He’s parachuted from an airplane, and he’s among the pressure-cooker fraternity of football coaches whose jobs are on the line each fall weekend.
His team faces Iowa on Saturday, but — no disrespect to the Hawkeyes — strategizing for new offenses and defenses coordinated by Greg Davis and Phil Parker is nothing compared to this:
Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren knows pressure. He knows stress.
He has been a guest singer for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field, where former Hawkeyes basketball star Bob Hansen will try his hand at belting out the song Friday during the Chicago Cubs’ “Hawkeye Day” festivities.
“That right there — now that’s pressure,” said Doeren, whose team faces Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The Hawkeyes are a 10-point favorite to end Northern Illinois’ nation-longest FBS winning streak at nine games, but this contest isn’t exactly a daunting proposition to Doeren.
“Standing up there in the booth at Wrigley Field is not something that I was trained to do,” Doeren said of last year’s seventh-inning sing-along. “You’re standing up there waiting, and all of a sudden the lights come on and somebody hands you a microphone. That’s pressure.
“I’ve jumped out of a plane, but when you do that, it’s just you and the plane.
“When you’re singing the seventh-inning stretch, you look out the window and you’ve got 20,000 people turning around staring at you. Now that’s pressure.
“I’m trained to coach. I’m not trained to sing.”
The coaching training started shortly after Doeren played for Drake from 1990-93. He became an assistant for then-Bulldogs coach Rob Ash, and immediately was hooked.
“He was always studying the game, wondering why we did certain things,” said Ash, now Montana State’s coach. “I remember when I hired him that a lot of people were surprised, because he was such a young guy to be hired as a defensive coordinator.”
Like most associated with football at Drake, Doeren coached in the shadows of others.
“We were the red-headed stepchild among the media when I was there,” Doeren said. “We were non-scholarship and fourth in line in the media — behind Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. Those teams got more publicity than we got.”
The respect factor has changed somewhat: Northern Illinois received a top 25 preseason vote in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls. Iowa received none.
“You know how that goes,” Doeren said. “Most of that’s based on the previous season, but we’re proud of the fact that people recognize what we did.”
His team won 11 games for the second season in a row. Three-peating, however, could be tough.
Veteran quarterback Chandler Harnish is a rookie for the Indianapolis Colts. The running back position could be “by committee.” The offensive line is mostly inexperienced.
“Everyone’s talking about the shoes (quarterback Jordan Lynch) has to fill, and quite honestly, Jordan is one of the toughest kids I’ve been around at that position,” Doeren said. “He plays quarterback with a linebacker mentality.”
Lynch has experience at Soldier Field — 3-for-3 as a passer for 9 yards, and 19 more yards on five rushes during last season’s 49-7 loss against Wisconsin.
“All of our returning players have been there twice,” Doeren said. “There’s definitely going to be less of an awe factor for our guys.”
While in Chicago, however, Doeren won’t venture to Wrigley. He’ll leave the signing to Hansen, although he feels he performed admirably.
“I think I pulled it off,” Doeren said. “At least that’s what they tell me.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football