As news about a football player boycott at Minnesota broke, Northern Illinois Athletic Director Sean Frazier quickly realized his Huskies might have a chance to play in the Holiday Bowl.

One problem: NIU was already on winter break.

But in less than 24 hours of frantic work, Frazier and NIU coaches knew they had what they needed most to accept a postseason bid on short notice: a motivated team.

With the Huskies having played in San Diego bowl games two of the last three seasons Frazier knew the logistics would fall into place for a game against Washington State on Dec. 27. Easy? No. But far from impossible.

“Because we’ve had a relationship with (Holiday Bowl organizers), we felt this was necessary to support the bowl and support our student athletes,” Frazier told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “That was a major part of this. This bowl committee, which had been so nice to us, friends to us, that we would get ourselves together and mobilize.”

Over the weekend, Minnesota players announced they would end the boycott over the university suspension of 10 players accused of sexual assault. The Golden Gophers say they will make the trip to San Diego.

Frazier began getting text messages and email about what was happening at Minnesota on Thursday evening and immediately knew what that meant. It was time to start making calls.

He informed his president and board of regents. Then he had to get his staff moving. Eight straight bowl appearances by NIU made Frazier’s staff “seasoned veterans” when it came to bowl preparation.

Most of all Frazier had to talk to Coach Rod Carey to determine if NIU had a team that could play in 12 days — in a top second-tier bowl, nonetheless.

NIU finished its season the Saturday after Thanksgiving at 5-7, but having won four of five as it got healthy after early season injuries. NCAA rules allow bowls to select 5-7 to fill spots if there are not enough six-win teams. The teams are selected in order of their latest Academic Progress Rate scores. NIU was next on the list, but the team hadn’t even met since Nov. 27. Fall commencement was Dec. 11. The players had dispersed.

Carey told Frazier early Friday morning the players were onboard. Most could drive back to campus, but some would need flights. Frazier said it would have cost the university $15,000-$20,000 to pay for travel expenses.

The first practice would likely have been held Monday, Frazier said. The coaches had already started breaking down film of Washington State.

Wanting to play is one thing. Being eligible is another. Frazier said he had compliance staff working on whether players, who now had fall grades to consider, would be academically eligible. Also, they needed to determine which players with professional aspirations had signed with agents.

That would make them ineligible.

“We were in the middle of going through those re-certifications as well as those appeal processes to make them eligible,” Frazier said. “We feel confident we would have ... been able to reverse anything that might have happened.”

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