HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak yesterday was named Mid-American Conference coach of the year, receiving 42 of 51 votes by the MAC News Media Association.
Surprisingly, second-year Toledo coach Tom Amstutz was a distant second, receiving just seven votes, despite leading his team to its second straight MAC championship game today against Marshall.
Novak guided his team to an 8-4 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the MAC. NIU tied the Rockets for the co-championship of the West Division. However, Novak's Huskies missed a chance to clinch a berth in the MAC title game by blowing a 17-0 lead on their home field on Nov. 23 and losing to Toledo 33-30.
LEFTWICH IS MVP: Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich received the Vern Smith Leadership Award, which goes to the league's MVP. On Thursday, Leftwich was named MAC offensive player of the year.
Leftwich has completed 277 of 405 passes for 3,615 yards and 22 touchdowns. With 50 more passing yards, he will become the league's all-time leader. He has 11,250 yards which trails the 11,299 by Western Michigan's Tim Lester from 1996-99.
- RON MUSSELMAN