'SEVEN ON SEVEN SERIES' WITH NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE VICE-PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS , SEAN T. FRAZIER
October 12, 2015
This year, there will be 40 bowl games played between December 19th and January 2nd, followed by the CFP championship on January 11. Given your affinity for these games, will you be able to view all 41, either live or on tape?
“The answer is, I will be able to view all of these games at a particular pace. Some right away and others on tape over the spring. I’m a college football junkie. I like to watch games all the time, often, in my free time because I’m a college football purist and I enjoy watching competition.”
How did your experiences at both Alabama and Wisconsin shape your views regarding bowl games?
“Those places shaped my views to a large extent. As a student-athlete at Alabama, the bowl experience was sacred and inspiring. It was my first chance to see places I’d never gone in my life. [I saw] the interaction between the host environment and our football program. It was a great experience and one I will treasure always, and the reason I am such a supporter of the bowl experience.
“Wisconsin was the first time I’d ever gone to a Rose Bowl, which I think is the best bowl on the face of this earth. It was a great experience. As a player, I had a chance to play in the Sugar Bowl, the old Hall of Fame which is now the Outback Bowl, and the Sun Bowl. Those are great bowls, but the Wisconsin experience opened me up to the Rose Bowl, which we played in three consecutive years. Every time we went, it was extremely special and I’ll never forget it.”
As the athletics director at an institution that is not part of the Power 5, how essential is it for MAC schools to compete for and participate in bowl games annually?
“It is essential for us to participate in bowl games. The bowl experience is one that our student-athletes and our coaches and our institution truly love. Having that experience at the bowls and now with the opportunity to participate possibly in the access bowl, the Big Six bowl, is even more critical. To have that experience for the institution, the visibility, the competition is essential to any football program.”
Northern Illinois and Ohio State are scheduled this season. Aside from the financial aspects of going to Columbus, what effect does “playing up” have on your players and coaches, notably those who are underclassmen?
“At NIU, we don’t ‘play up’ or consider that ‘playing up.’ We play a competitive schedule. If you happen to be the No. 1 team in the nation because a talking head decrees that, that’s great, but we’ll play anybody, anyplace, anytime. We put together a balanced schedule because of the level we have attained as a program. So Ohio State and Boston College, who were on our schedule this year, are worthy opponents. We need to have a non-conference scheduling balance that’s worthy of our program.”
Even though the CFP games are part of the 41-game FBA bowl schedule, many college football fans see these games as separate from the rest. Yet 38 other schools get the benefit of playing one more game and perhaps ending their season on a winning note. What does the ‘bowl experience’ mean for the Huskies in terms of your current players and how does it affect recruiting in a positive way?
“Going to a bowl, having the ability to sell that as part of the whole package is a huge part of our program. You come here, you’re going to play for championships; we have a history of playing for championships and winningchampionships. Then, having the ability to cap off a career or a year with bowl experience; to go to a location you don’t normally go to and to be able to play against competition from another conference is glorious, it really is. To say that we’re the best or we’re the conference champion or this is what we’ve done during the regular season and go head to head with another institution from another conference and to say ‘OK, who’s the best?’ To have that type of head-to-head competition is a great, great thing. Competition is what made this country fantastic and it continues when we have a chance to go head to head in a great bowl game.”
Prior to coming to NIU, you had a number of roles in the Wisconsin athletics department. What influence did Barry Alvarez have on you and what did you learn the most from him in terms of running a department?
“He’s a coaches’ coach. As ADs, we are the coach of coaches, that’s the whole idea of an athletic director. Barry is more than just a former boss, he’s a friend, he’s a mentor, he’s someone who’s shaped my decision-making. I’ve learned so many life lessons from Barry that have helped me to be a better administrator and a better leader. He leads by example, not many people have played the game, coached the game and administered the game, and I come from that same pedigree. I’ve learned a lot what to do and what not to do and Barry has made sure in his mentorship of me that I have the skill set to take it to the next level, and that’s what I do for NIU.”
At Alabama, you played for both Bill Curry and Gene Stallings. What over the years have you taken from those experiences and what were some of your own bowl game memories with the Crimson Tide??
“Both are great men. Bill had a run. It was great to learn his style. Under his watch, we won a Southeastern Conference championship in ’89. I learned a lot about life from both men. Gene Stallings was a players’ coach. He was a person that I was particularly close to finishing off my career. I really got to know him as a person, and he’s a great human being.
“There were a couple of bowl memories that stand out. One was in the Sun Bowl, where we played Army. It was a shootout. We had a famed linebacker, Derrick Thomas, who blocked four field goals. Watching him as a younger player, in a back-up role I had, it showed you the tradition Alabama had. At the end of the day, none of us thought that we were going to lose to Army, even though Army made it very difficult and came after us.
The last one was the Sugar Bowl. I played in the Sugar Bowl against Miami. We actually lost the game, some questionable calls, I’ll just say that. But I will say that the experience of being in the Sugar Bowl, being conference champion and then the pageantry around the bowl experience and being in New Orleans and everything else, it was special.”