In 1978, the Northern Iowa Panthers football team won the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) championship for the first time in school history. Led by head coach Stan Sheriff, the Panthers finished the season with a 9-1 overall record and a perfect 8-0 record in conference play. The team’s only loss came in the season opener against North Dakota State, but they rebounded to win their next nine games, including a 28-14 victory over Coe College in the final game of the season to clinch the conference championship.
The 1978 Northern Iowa team was known for its strong defense, which allowed an average of just 9.9 points per game. The defense was led by linebacker Ken Schroy, who went on to have a successful career in the NFL with the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. On offense, the Panthers were led by quarterback Jeff Staker, who threw for 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.
The IIAC championship was a significant achievement for Northern Iowa, as the conference was considered one of the strongest Division III football conferences in the country at the time. The Panthers’ success in 1978 laid the foundation for a strong football program that would eventually move up to Division I-AA (now FCS) and become a perennial contender in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.