Northern Illinois University, currently a strong Mid-American Conference member, once dreamed big during a past era of conference realignment. After being independent upon their departure from the MAC, they decided to join the Big West in 1993. Why in the world would NIU do that? Because they seriously thought of it as a stepping stone to the Big 8 Conference.
From the '93 Chicago Tribune article:
Geography aside, all parties at Northern see the Big West arrangement as temporary, a step in a process that will end in Northern Illinois being the easternmost stop in a Midwestern league. Specifically, the Big Eight.
Nebraska and Northern Illinois playing for a trip to the Orange Bowl? Snicker if you will. So what if the required jump rivals anything achieved by Superman.
At Northern Illinois, with its enrollment of 25,000 students, university President John E. La Tourette gets paid to dream such dreams.
"This institution always had high aspirations," La Tourette said. &quo...