NIU captured its first MAC football championship since 1983, defeating Ohio, 23-20
Dave Doeren's first season as head coach of the Northern Illinois University football program could not have gone much better.
In his first season as head coach of the Northern Illinois University football program, Dave Doeren and his Huskies achieved milestones rarely reached over the course of a career, let alone a single season.
Doeren's first year at the helm of a program saw NIU win the school's first Mid-American Conference Championship since 1983, earn its second straight bowl victory and close out the year with nine straight victories en route to tying the school record with 11 wins.
Following the season, five members of the 2011 Huskie team inked contracts with National Football League teams, including seventh-round draft choice and record-setting quarterback Chandler Harnish. Off the field, the Huskies' Academic Progress Rate (APR), the NCAA's primary academic measurement tool, ranks in the Top Five in the country.
Northern Illinois' 2011 season was not without its challenges for the first-year coach. Before the season began, he dealt with the loss of three defensive starters, leaving the Huskies with just two returning starters on defense entering the season. By the end of the year, that oft-maligned unit allowed just seven second-half points in the Huskies' comeback victories in the MAC Championship and GoDaddy.com Bowl while intercepting six passes in the two games.
Doeren saw three Huskies - Harnish, offensive tackle Trevor Olson and center Scott Wedige - earn All-America honors, while Harnish was named a national Scholar-Athlete Award Winner by the National Football Foundation and earned the MAC's Vern Smith Leadership Award as league MVP.
In taking over a senior-laden team, Doeren earned his new squad's respect and trust soon after his arrival on campus in January 2011 as the staff and coaches came together in pursuit of a championship. NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher, who announced Doeren's hiring on Dec. 13, 2010, said Doeren's approach resulted in the smoothest coaching staff transition he had ever seen.
The Kansas native came to NIU after completing his fifth season at Wisconsin, where he served as defensive coordinator along with linebackers coach, with a trip to the 2011 Rose Bowl. In all, he helped take teams to eight bowl games and two national championship contests as an assistant. During Doeren's time at Wisconsin, the Badgers posted a 49-15 overall record and played in the Champs Sports Bowl (twice), Outback Bowl and Capital One Bowl.
In January of 2008, Doeren added defensive coordinator duties to his assignment as linebackers coach after spending his first two seasons in Madison as the Badgers' co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator. The Shawnee Mission, Kansas native also served on successful coaching staffs at Kansas (2002-05), Montana (2000-01), USC (1998-99) and Drake (1995-97), his alma mater. He began his coaching career at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kansas. His UW defenses were consistently ranked in the national top 25 in NCAA defensive categories. The 2010 Wisconsin defense ranked 20th in the country in total defense and in the Top 30 in both rushing and scoring defense. In 2009, Wisconsin led the Big Ten and ranked fifth in the country in rushing defense. The Badgers held each of their last 10 opponents in 2009 to less than 100 yards rushing, the longest streak in school history. Wisconsin led the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2006 and was the No. 2 scoring defense in the country.
His pupils at Wisconsin included National Football League linebackers Jonathan Casillas of the New Orleans Saints and DeAndre Levy, the Detroit Lions' middle linebacker. Badgers' linebacker Chris Borland earned 2009 Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year honors.
Doeren arrived at Wisconsin after four seasons (2002-05) at the University of Kansas. He was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for three seasons before being promoted to co-defensive coordinator. The Jayhawks led the Big 12 Conference and ranked No. 3 nationally in rushing defense in 2005 and were 11th nationally in total defense.
Doeren coached the secondary at NCAA Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) power Montana for two seasons and was the Grizzlies' recruiting coordinator for one year. Montana won the I-AA national championship in 2001 and went 28-3 with two conference titles in Doeren's two seasons there.
Doeren's bowl experience goes back to his days as a graduate assistant at Southern California (USC) when the Trojans played in the 1998 Sun Bowl. The Trojans led the nation in interceptions that year with 24, while the 1999 squad led the nation in turnover margin.
He started his college coaching career as an assistant at Drake from 1995-97, where he coached linebackers before adding defensive coordinator chores in 1997. A four-year letterwinner at Drake (1990-93), Doeren earned Academic All-America honors as a senior and graduated with a bachelor's degree in pre-medical biology and a master's in educational leadership.
He and his wife, Sara, have three sons, Jacob, Luke and Connor.