(ERIC SUMBERG ~ Associated Press)
DEKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois has hired Jerry Kill as its new football coach, less than a week after he led Southern Illinois to the FCS semifinals.
NIU introduced Kill, 46, on Thursday as the successor to Joe Novak, who retired last month after 12 seasons with the Huskies.
"I've chased a dream, and the dream came true today," Kill said at a news conference at NIU's athletic training center. "I wanted to have the opportunity to coach Division I football and I wanted to make it a place where it would be a great fit and have a chance to be successful."
SIU is in what used to be Division I-AA, while NIU is a Mid-American Conference team in what formerly was Division I.
Novak built NIU into a powerhouse with seven straight winning seasons and two bowl appearances, but the Huskies slipped to 2-10 in an injury-plagued 2007 season.
"Joe's made this a great job," Kill said. "I've got big shoes to fill. I will give every single thing I have, I will work endless hours and keep going with the legacy that coach Novak has put here."
The Salukis went 12-2 this season, including a 34-32 come-from-behind victory at NIU in September. In Kill's seven seasons in Carbondale the team went 56-32, won three straight Gateway Conference titles (2003 to 2005) and made five consecutive postseason appearances, including a run to the FCS semifinals that ended in a 20-17 loss to Delaware last Saturday.
SIU athletics director Mario Moccia said he appreciated what Kill accomplished and planned a nationwide search to find a successor. No time frame is set.
Novak assisted during a selection process that took more than two weeks, said NIU athletic director Jim Phillips.
"We cast a net as wide as possible -- 1,261 bios to be exact that we went through," Phillips said. "I know coach Novak's exhausted, I'm exhausted. The goal in the end was to find the right institutional fit and I know that we did."
Kill had a cancerous tumor removed from his kidney in 2005 but said his health is excellent.
"I'm in complete remission and I feel fantastic," he said.