Originally, Northern Illinois Universitys football facility was known as The House That George Bork Built in honor of the former Little All-America quarterback who led the program to national prominence in the 1960s. Over the years, the Huskie players and coaches affectionately nicknamed their home as The Doghouse. In May, 1974, it was officially designated as Huskie Stadium during NIUs 75th anniversary observance.
And now, as of this July, it has a new name and a more tradition-filled one: Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium.
Named in honor of Robert J. Brigham, a Northern Illinois Hall of Fame icon who carried the Cardinal and Black colors for 50 years as a student-athlete, assistant coach, head coach, director of athletics, and special assistant to the president before his retirement in June, 2001. The announcement was made by current NIU Athletics Director Cary Groth.
It is a natural and an overdue tribute to Dr. Bob, Groth said. I cannot think of a more loyal and devoted Northern Illinois alum. He served has alma mater with distinction, dignity, integrity, and perseverance. You really cannot say enough about his many contributions to NIU intercollegiate athletics and this institution. We all felt this was the most appropriate way of recognition.
Like its namesake, the 30,076-seat Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium carries a storied past. To its credit, the university has also maintained and enhanced the institutions top all-around athletics facilityby adding the long-awaited East Grandstand in 1995, installing the state-of-the-art FieldTurf playing surface in 2001, updating the scoreboard and video display system in both 2000 and 2001, and creating the attractive South End Zone berm in 2002.
Its a dream of many peopleincluding Bob Brighamthat has been finally fulfilled, Groth added. Enhancing the stadium not only helps our football program, but our other sports teams as well. Best of all, it gives our fans a first-class venue to enjoy Northern Illinois football.
And physical changes notwithstanding, Huskie Stadium has certainly served as the stage to the fulfillment of numerous athletic dreams.
The Northern Illinois superstructure was dedicated November 6,1965, on Homecoming / Legislators Day with a 48-6 triumph over Illinois State before 18,858 spectators. Little All-America QB Ron Christian completed 18-of-31 passes for 314 yards that afternoon.
Worth an estimated $22 million in 1998 dollars, the new field was originally constructed to accommodate 20,257 spectators15,000 on the concrete West stands.
The West side superstructure now includes the Hall of Fame Speed and Strength Complex, one gym which serves as the training home for both gymnastics and wrestling plus a second gym featuring safety-pit facilities for the gymnastics program, classrooms, offices, lockerrooms, athletics training facilities, storage areas, ticket windows, and elevator leading to the main press box, auxiliary television press box, plus the university sky box.
The stadiums AstroTurf playing surface, pioneered in 1969, was recarpeted in 1980 and 1990 before being replaced by a new FieldTurf surface in 2001.
On September 20, 1969, the Northern Illinois-Idaho game marked the states first major-college gridiron contest played on artificial turf. The Huskies won, 47-30. Hard-core trivia fanatics can also note that Huskie Stadium was the site for the states first intercollegiate mens soccer match on AstroTurf as NIU blanked Marquette University by a 5-0 count on September 27, 1969.
Huskie Stadium has also been the site for numerous other memorable performances and performers. NIUs first major grid victim was Bowling Green State University on November 16, 1968. The Falconsthe winningest Mid-American Conference program in that decadewere beaten 7-6, thanks to a 97-yard opening kickoff return by split end John Spilis and a PAT kick by halfback Wayne Fiedler.
In keeping with the university's commitment to Division 1-A football, the capacity was expanded in 1982 to 30,998 seats, including several rows of field-level benches.
The following season saw thousands of NIU students ignore chilly conditions to celebrate the Huskies first Mid-Am crown and California Bowl berth after NIU downed Ohio University by a 41-17 tally in the regular season finale on November 19, 1983.
Northern Illinois initial triumph over a Top 25 ballclub came at Huskie Stadium on October 6, 1990, as quarterback Stacey Robinson established two NCAA recordsrushing for 287 yards in the first half and finishing with 308 overallin leading NIU to an eye-opening 73-18 win over Fresno State Universityrated 20th by UPI and 24th by AP. The Wishbone Wizard guided the Huskies to school team records with 733 rushing yards, 806 yards total offense, and 36 total first downs.
And 1993 saw LeShon Johnson become the second national rushing championjoining Mark Kellar in 1973to call Huskie Stadium home.
Last autumn, Northern Illinois registered its second-ever victory against a Top 25 opponent with the classic 26-17 triumph over the APs No. 16-ranked and previously unbeaten Bowling Green State in the Duel in the Doghouse. The unforgettable afternoon on November 9, 2002, was witnessed by a crowd of 25,822 spectators, a regional Fox Sports Net television audience, and the largest print media contingent to cover a MAC regular-season football contest.
When the 79,000-square foot multi-use AstroTurf field was last recarpeted in 1990, it marked the beginning of a series of improvements for this decade.
The turf, padding, base repair, and eight-year maintenance contract cost approximately $655,000. The project was approved by NIUs Board of Regents and funded by bond revenue monies. In 1991, a handicapped-accessible seating area was added to the South end zone stands and the strength complex was completed.
In 1992, Northern Illinois selected the renowned sports architectural firm, Rosser Fabrap International of Atlanta, GA, to develop a multi-phase expansion plan.
Improvements for 1993 included new state-of-the-art, energy efficient metal hilite lights, a revamped public address system, and two meeting rooms.
The dual-level lighting systeminstalled by the famous Musco Lighting, Inc. of Oskaloosa, IAgenerates 100 foot-candles for television games and gears down to only 50 foot-candles for practices. The light poles also featured new fixtures and wiring.
Additional Phase I upgrades included completely renovated lockerrooms and the new Premier Club seating section with 1,200 chairback and 800 benchback seats. The 1994 campaign brought the 2,000,000th person through the stadium turnstiles. In 38 seasons, 2,687,425 fans have watched Northern Illinois football at Huskie Stadium.
And in the spring of 1995, Phase II construction began on the East Grandstand which was approved by the schools Board of Regents on April 13. The project drew praise for not utilizing state tax dollars or special student fee money. The funding came through a combination of private support and amortization, plus maintenance and repair funds within the current bond system.
Designed by the architectural firm of Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum Sports Facilities Group, Inc., of Kansas City, MO, the East Grandstand features 10,400 aluminum bleacher seats, supported by a steel-beam superstructure. It includes 54 rows of seats and measures 67-feet high, 104-feet deep, and approximately 300-feet wide. In addition to matching the West side in terms of raised seats approximately 6-to-8 feet above the FieldTurf surface, the architectural design also parallels the opposite side. The pre-cast concrete lip at the tops and sides of the East Grandstand, plus the brick walls on the East facade and along the North and South sides, match those of the West superstructure.
The East Grandstand also includes a handicapped seating deck which stretches between the 35-yard lines, and eight portals for access into that part of the stadium. Underneath, the East Grandstand concourse has six washroom facilitiesfour for women and two for menalong the exterior East wall, a main food commissary for concessions in the middle, and concrete paving.
Williams Brothers of Peoria, IL, served as the contractor for the project after having also handled the Premier Club seating and lockerroom renovations prior to 1994.
The 2000 football season brought the ultimate in fan amenities to Huskie Stadium.
A new South end zone scoreboard that features an 11-by-15-foot video display systemdeveloped by Daktronics, Inc., of ings, SDand uses red, green, and blue LEDs (light emitting diodes) to illuminate video and messages in 16.7 million colors. The scoreboard also has an enhanced, directional Dodge Electronics sound system. Twenty television monitors were installed at various stadium locationsconcession areas and concoursesso fans wont miss a play. In 2001, a larger video display board was installed on the south end of Huskie Stadium.
Other proposed upgrades include: new seating for the North and South end zones which would enclose the field; a public concourse on the West side; expansion and renovation of existing skybox and press box space; the addition and / or renovation on the West side for increased support areas ranging from restrooms and concessions, expanded office space, sports medicine and equipment centers, plus additional locker facilities.
In 2003-04, NIU will sponsor 17 intercollegiate sportsseven for men and ten for women. Huskie Stadiums sports medicine and locker areas are utilized by 11 of those programsfootball, baseball, soccer, tennis, and wrestling on the mens side; gymnastics, softball, soccer, tennis, plus indoor and outdoor track and field on the womens side.
Among those sports, three other adjacent athletics facilitiesthe Huskie SoccerSphere, Ralph McKinzie Baseball Field, and Mary M. Bell Softball Fieldare among the collegiate worlds best. Bell Field hosted the Illinois High School Association Class AA (large school) Championships for three years (1998-2000).
Towering over that trio of facilities is Huskie Stadium, which is also used for numerous intramural and special events, such as the Drum Corps Midwest Championships.
The universitys West Campus Master Planincluding the 9,100-seat Convocation Center to the Westencompasses numerous residence hall renovations, exterior landscaping, and increased intramural and recreational fields.
Ultimately, Huskie Stadium, the Convocation Center, plus the baseball and softball venues, will be bordered to the north by additional green space creating a stronger and safer pedestrian link to the Central Campus.