May 1, 2006
DeKalb, IL -- Award-winning Northern Illinois University sports information director Mike Korcek -- currently the longest tenured Division 1-A SID in the state and the dean of Mid-American Conference SIDs -- announced his retirement Monday (May 1).
The 58-year-old Korcek will officially hang up his full-time "Assistant Athletics Director / Media Relations" title this coming June 30 and return later in the summer as SID emeritus -- a part-time position that entails administering the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame Selection Committee, helping on various Northern Illinois alumni events, conducting departmental research, serving as a consultant, and handling the analyst role on NIU women's basketball radio broadcats on the Huskie Radio Network.
A national search for Korcek's successor will begin immediately. Currently, Korcek is in his 22nd year as the head SID at Northern Illinois and 33rd in the office full-time. He succeeded the Huskies' legendary Hall of Fame sports information director Bud Nangle in September, 1984.
"Professionally, it's just time to gear down," Korcek said. "For me, this has not been some mundane 9-to-5 job. It's been a passion. But, over the years, the weekends, nights, and 70-to-80-hour work weeks add up. That said, the best aspect of my so-called retirement is that I will still be involved and around the program. Still, it's been a blast. The media attention generated by our football program in recent years has been my personal Fantasy Island SID experience. This institution deserves that type of coverage.
"The perk of this job has always been our great student-athletes. If I start listing names, I'll overlook someone and get in big trouble. I have enough Northern Illinois stories, memories, and friendships to last three lifetimes. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my alma mater as SID and to be identified so many years with NIU Intercollegiate Athletics. I will always be a Huskie and a (Prospect High School) Knight," the Mount Prospect native added.
"Obviously, there are many, many people to thank," Korcek said. "My parents, my mentor and predecessor Bud Nangle, Bob Brigham, Cary Groth, and, most recently, Jim Phillips. My dedicated and hard-working staff, current and past assistants, and the hundreds of student workers, and, in particular, long-time associates Dianne Wunsch and Steve Nemeth. Thanks to NIU Imaging and NIU Media Services and all our friends in the local, Chicago, regional, and national media. It's been an unbelievable run for me."
According to the College Sports Information Directors of America, Korcek's 33-year tenure puts him among the Top 20 active SIDs in the profession. Adding his three-year tenure on The Northern Star sports staff (1966-69) and year as a student assistant for Nangle (1969-70), he has covered the Huskies for five decades and been on the DeKalb campus for 37 years. Overall, only Brigham (50 years as a student-athlete, coach, athletics director, and special assistant to the president) and retired men's golf coach Jack Pheanis (46 years) have enjoyed a longer involvement with Northern Illinois athletics. In terms of longevity, Korcek is the senior member of the current athletics staff and also the longest tenured sports information employee in NIU history.
"How do you thank someone for such incredible service and dedication? When it comes to that expression `Blood in the Bricks,' there's no question Mike's sweat and tears can be found throughout the mortar of NIU athletics," second-year Northern Illinois Director of Athletics Jim Phillips said. "Whether it's the individual or yearly sports files crammed with facts and details, he's literally written much of the history of NIU sports, which makes him a human encyclopedia of all things Huskie. In our minds, that knowledge and his passion for Northern Illinois is irreplaceable. That's one of the reasons we're excited to have him remain a part of our family in another capacity as a historian and SID emeritus."
Under Korcek's direction, the NIU Office of Sports Information has been honored for numerous conference, regional, and national citations for excellence and service. The Football Writers Association of America cited the office for "outstanding press box services" in 1992 while College Hoops Insider voted the office No. 1 nationally for basketball service in 1995-96 and No. 2 in 1996-97.
The quantity and quality of the major-sport publications -- media guides and game programs in football and men's and women's basketball -- ranked among the best in the Mid-American Conference. In 20 years, the Northern Illinois Football Media Guide expanded from a 76-page, 5 x 8-inch format in 1984 to a more contemporary 260-page, 8 x 11-inch publication in 2004. The Huskie women's basketball game program -- produced by former assistant Robert Hester -- was judged "Best in the Nation" among Division I institutions in 1996-97 and 1998-99 by CoSIDA. A recipient of 50-plus awards from CoSIDA, Korcek has won 37 writing citations -- including several "Best in the Nation" awards -- in various editorial categories (event coverage, event previews, features, opinion columns) since 1986. NIU's 91st Homecoming Huskie Illustrated football game program won the CoSIDA "Best Cover" in the nation award in 1997.
Korcek was the recipient of NIU's Outstanding Service Award (1989), the Donald R. Grubb Distinguished Journalism Alumnus of the Year Award (1998), the CoSIDA 25-Year Service Award (1999), and the All-American Football Foundation "Scoop" Hudgins Lifetime Sports Information Directors Award (2001). He was inducted into the media wing of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1999), The Northern Star Alumni Hall of Fame (2001), and the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame (2003).
During his career, Korcek has promoted three Heisman Trophy candidates, 40 Division 1-A All-America picks, and nine freshmen All-America selections in football at a mid-major level. In 1993, Northern Illinois unanimous First-Team All-America tailback LeShon "Cowboy" Johnson finished sixth in the Heisman balloting with 176 points on a 4-7 team with no television exposure. Ten years later, Korcek made "Turner the Burner" a familiar refrain in media circles on behalf of tailback Michael Turner. As part of "The Burner" marketing campaign in 2003, he contributed to the www.turnertheburner website that CNN-Sports Illustrated called "perhaps, the best site of its kind," the famous hot sauce, and other Turner trinkets.
In men's basketball, Korcek put the polish on one All-America and one National Association of Basketball Coaches Dunker of the Year in Kenny Battle, plus three CoSIDA Academic All-Americas in Tim "The Marshal" Dillon (1984), Brad Waller (1985), and T.J. Lux (1997, 1998, 2000). He also campaigned and did the paperwork for three recipients of the prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship (Dillon in 1984, Lux in 2000, and gymnast Doug Kieso in 1984), two National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award winners (Patrick Stephen in 1998 and Josh Haldi in 2004), two Playboy All-Americas (Lux in 2000 and Garrett Wolfe in 2006), and the CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year awards (Lux).
In addition, Korcek was the major impetus behind the Northern Illinois Centennial celebrations in football (1999) and men's basketball (2000-01), the All-Decade Team (1980-90), the All-Time Chick Evans Field House Team (1997), the All-Century Team (2001), and "The Last Hurrah" at venerable Chick Evans Field House (2002) in men's basketball, plus the All-Time Huskie Stadium Team (1995) and the All-Century Team (1999) in football. In 2001, he resurrected the NIU men's basketball Alumni Game that is now played on an annual basis. Korcek has hosted many Huskie reunions -- the most prominent being the Tom Jorgensen-era men's basketball group in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1997, 2002, and 2005. He also serves as the chair of the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame Selection Committee, conducted extensive historical research for virtually every sport in the school's history, plus originated the school's infamous annual Slam-Dunk Award in 1980-81.
Korcek chairs the national CoSIDA Ethics Committee and has authored several articles on the subject that have appeared in The CoSIDA Digest and The NCAA News. At the 2004 CoSIDA Workshop in Calgary, Korcek headed a panel discussion titled "Ethics in the Profession."
After receiving a Honorable Discharge from the U. S. Army, Korcek joined Nangle's staff in December, 1973. An honor graduate of the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, IN, Korcek worked two-and-a-half years in the sports department of European Stars & Stripes in Darmstadt, Germany (1971-73). At S&S, he wrote features and interviewed such sports personalities as Floyd Patterson, Brooks Robinson, Al McGuire, Abe Lemons, Don Nelson, Jim Otto, and Jon McGlocklin, plus served as the night sports editor and "slot man."
A 1970 Northern Illinois graduate with a bachelor of science degree in journalism, Korcek worked three years on The Northern Star. As a junior, he was the sports editor and spread the Huskie gospel campus-wide in his "Ajax Cleans the Boards" sports column. He was included in "Who's Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities" in 1969-70. Korcek began his sportswriting career as a prep stringer for the now defunct Mount Prospect News and continued on the PHS student newspaper, The Prospector, covering the Knights' state-ranked 21-5 basketball team in 1965-66 that featured All-Stater Tom Lundstedt and Dave Kingman. He graduated from Prospect in 1966.
"As corny as it sounds, I can never adequately pay back both my alma maters for all of this" Korcek said. "Northern Illinois and Prospect were the springboards for this wonderful 37-year journey in the media business. What tremendous opportunities I had as a student. You've heard the catch phrase `NIU Works.' For me, it sure did and I'm eternally grateful."
--NIU-- --Copy by STEVE NEMETH