Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald formally announced a 15-man recruiting class today that is among the most highly rated in program history. It's possibly Fitzgerald’s highest rated recruiting class ever-
#38 nationally by ESPN, with a composite player rating of 85.37 according to 247Sports--best in recent memory.
Rivals ranks this Northwestern recruiting class 59th overall, Scout says 50th. The press conference was held at Ditka’s restaurant in the Gold Coast, which was great for everyone involved. Much more convenient, especially given the snow, ice and hazardous travel conditions.
An insanely rough winter it has indeed been, and Northwestern
SID Paul Kennedy got the presser rolling with this weather related joke:
"Thanks for coming in the snow. This would have crippled the entire Southeastern Conference."
Recruiting, perhaps more than any topic in all of sports, is very internet driven. Internet media and the outlets that cover recruiting have a very symbiotic relationship. Throughout the press conference, Pat Fitzgerald constantly remarked about how the internet has changed recruiting...
Despite today's setback home loss to Iowa, Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins is playing spoiler to his Big Ten conference rivals. The "spoiler role" is a shopworn sports media cliche, yes I know that.
However, it also truly what the ‘Cats are doing right now. The Wildcats inflicted critical blows to the NCAA Tournament hopes of the Indiana Hoosiers
, (tournament resume/chances
) Illinois Fighting Illini
(don't feel they have a NCAA resume worth writing about right now, hence no link)and Purdue Boilermakers (updated tourney profile
). And that’s all just in the past two weeks.
Here's what the tournament chances and resumes of each of those three traditional B1G powers looks like now: Purdue, Illinois, Indiana. In his debut year of transition, Chris Collins has beaten all three of these programs, who are regular annual attendees to the big dance. As it stands today, the Illini, Hoosiers and Boilermakers are in the same boat as the Wildcats. They all need to either a.) very improbably win about 90% of their remaining games or b.) win the Big Ten Tournament in order qualify for the NCAA Tournament...
Illinois basketball won't be ranked again any time soon. They responded to being nationally ranked by getting DESTROYED at Wisconsin by 25 points, and then failing to play offense for 3/4 of a game that will go down as one of the worst losses in Illinois basketball history. It's certainly the worst loss of the John Groce era, and among the worst of 2010s Illinois basketball.
Conversely, it's the biggest win of the very very brief Chris Collins era at Northwestern. You wouldn't think a team with records and statistics that bad would actually beat a ranked team this year. But hey, this is Illinois basketball. Time to talk CBI and NIT, because 2013-14 Illinois basketball just suffered a tournament resume black eye from which they won't likely recover.
Here's some Illinois basketball fans and journalists and sports pundits reacting to the biggest win Collins has accomplished, and the death knell for the '13-14 Illinois basketball season
I love it when my two press corps get together! Illini basketball vs Northwestern.
It's going down...I'm yelling Timber. You better move, you better dance.
Sorry, couldn't pass that up.
It's just that NU and Illini basketball, and football are the two programs, along with the Chicago Bulls, that I cover regularly. Therefore, the once a year that they play each other is special to me as I "belong" to both press corps. The media room at this one is always a lot of fun for me. I even do a weekly segment on KOZN, 1620 The Zone Omaha, talking about Illinois and Northwestern.
(UPDATE: NU to unveil new publicity-grabbing uniforms for this game)
Sunday night, 6:30 PM at Welsh-Ryan Arena will mark the one time they meet this year in hoops. There might be a round two at the Big Ten Tournament in Indy. If it were up to me, I'd keep them meeting just once a year, and have it at the United Center each time...
I have more respect and admiration for Northwestern football right now than I have previously had at any point in my life. I think even higher of the NU football program, as they finish the season 5-7, as I did when they were 4-0 and ranked #16 in the nation.
Now, I've been very critical of NU this season.
I've been extremely harsh on this team.
Maybe I've been too critical, or undeservedly critical of Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern football program at times, but it's only because I believe they're a very solid program that should be treated with the exact same scrutiny as the Ohio States and Michigans of the world. And that 7 game losing streak was....to quote George Michael in "Careless Whisper," "there's no comfort in the truth, pain is all you'll find."
I feel NU should be held to very high standards. And I write this 1,000 word essay just moments after they defeated my beloved Alma Mater, in the Land of Lincoln trophy game, so you know this expression comes from the heart. And to be fair, as harshly critical as I've been of Northwestern football, I've been even harder on my Illini, Illinois football coach Tim Beckman, and especially harsh on Illini Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks.
And to show fairness and balance, I've also written a lot of fawning stuff about Northwestern football in 2013
I've written pulchritudinous pieces that purple propagandists (should) passionately promote.
And perhaps no media member beat the drum to bring ESPN College Gameday to Evanston as loud as I did. And I challenge you to find anyone who covered the Gameday at Northwestern University experience with as much effort and zeal as I did
One topic I never addressed in 2013, positively or negatively, is the tremendous heart and resilient fight of this team. Now's the time...
No one hates Northwestern
No one possibly could.
Well, the main purple flag waver in sports media today also happens to be the most hated man in sports media, but that’s a different issue. You can’t hate the school just because D-Money (CC @TheGoodDrJim)
went there. Well, University of Illinois
grads do in fact hate Northwestern. You can see it in the way Illini
people schadenfreude the train wreck that is the 2013 Northwestern football season. I’ve told my people not to take joy in what’s happened at NU
. (The local and national media declaring Northwestern BCS bound and Pat Fitzgerald
the next Nick Saban, only to see it come crashing all down into a college football
season that will have no bowl appearance).
So where does the hate come from?
The “Chicago’s Big Ten
Team” marketing campaign.
All Big Ten alumni bases in Chicago took offense to it, none more so than the University of Illinois. From there, the University of Illinois Alumni Association took a couple shots at Northwestern
and then things took off from there! When Tim Beckman
took over the Illini program, he put up a big N Cat logo with a line through it in the Illini football meeting room.
Then he made his team slogan W.I.N. or W.I.N.T. “Whatever is needed Today.” After Northwestern had “W.I.N. What’s Important Now” for many years. So we have a legitimate rivalry on our hands.
And the rivalry game will be played Saturday, in Champaign, 2:30 on Big Ten Network. Northwestern is 3.5 point favorites. It’s the LOL Bowl,
the Land of Lincoln trophy or LOL trophy game. And given how both of these teams are playing, the LOL contest will certainly have you ROTFL or LMAO. Here’s my game preview and prediction at this link.
But for this post I’ve listed as many Northwestern and Illinois alums in the national and local sports media as I'm aware of...
football Coach Pat Fitzgerald
on this season: “Good riddance.”
He said that today following his team’s 30-6 shellacking at the hands of Michigan State
, dropping Northwestern football to 4-7 after starting the year 4-0 and ranked #16 in all of college football
. There’s still one more week left, at Illinois
to take on the Illini
in the Land of Lincoln trophy or LOL trophy game. And given how both of these teams are playing, the LOL contest will certainly have you ROTFL or LMAO.
The Illini ended their 20 game Big Ten
losing streak today at Purdue
; which now means the longest current losing streak in Big Ten play belongs to Purdue…and Northwestern. I don’t know who will be favored in Illini football vs Northwestern football, I just know that tickets are going very slowly for that one. Whether NU
finishes 5-7 or 4-8, it doesn’t really matter. The story of the 2013 Northwestern football season has already been written. “Good riddance” might as well be your theme. Because Northwestern is not going to a bowl for the first time since 2007. They will not be bowl eligible for the first time since 2006, Fitz’s first year on the job.
The end of the bowl game streak signifies that this losing streak hasn’t just been comprised of season defining losses, but also program defining losses. This week's Chicago Now Northwestern football piece is indeed just as uplifting as last week's piece.
And by that I mean it's as uplifting as the plot to Les Miserables...
The preseason media hype for Northwestern
was tremendous. And it kept growing well into this month.
Just 14 days ago, the local and national football media pundits were buying Northwestern stock in bunches. They weren’t just buying, it was "back up the truck and let's get this bandwagon filled."
Yet today it looks like a lost season for Northwestern.
Two weeks ago, Northwestern was #16 in the nation and undefeated. Today, they’re 4-3 overall, 0-3 in the Big Ten
and likely to be underdogs in four of their last five games. On October 5th, Northwestern led unbeaten Ohio State
, who currently possess the nation’s longest winning streak, by ten points with just a few minutes remaining. And 7.4 million people were watching that game on television.
Back then, in that far away time and space, Northwestern bowl hopes were New Year’s Day at minimum with very realistic BCS potential. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times had the Wildcats going to the Orange Bowl in the preseason. The Big Ten
Network’s website had the purple in Pasadena, even AFTER the loss to the Buckeyes
The buzz surrounding Northwestern
football was certainly quieted today with a 35-6 loss
to the Wisconsin Badgers
. The hype machine surrounding NU
hit climax last week with ESPN
College Gameday coming to Evanston, and then the ABC primetime showdown with Ohio State
. That contest of much ballyhoo ended in a “missed it by that much” and emotional drain of a loss.
Today’s defeat, by contrast, was an utter destruction from the very beginning.
It sort of reminds me of a pivotal scene in the 2000 Roland Emerich film “The Patriot.” In the Revolutionary War movie, Tom Wilkinson plays famous British General Lord Charles Cornwallis. After achieving an advantage, the Officer subordinate to Cornwallis tells him:
“But my Lord, you’ve taken the field!”
“And now we shall take their spirits! Send the entire battalion over the hill and CRUSH THEM!”
“It ends today!”
Cornwallis/Wilkinson says with prodigious bombast, instructing his Commander to make an extremely aggressive maneuver to finish off the American rebellion. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Not in the film’s fictional representation of the Battle of Cowpens nor in your grade school history book)
Today was for Northwestern football, that crush.
Wisconsin's defense destroyed them with a force of an entire battalion. Following up a significant setback. Last weekend was a bad loss. What happened in Madison today hurts much more.
And yes, something did “end today.” All that extra media hype and additional buzz surrounding Northwestern football...
Wildcats had Ohio State
right where they wanted them. NU
had the nation’s third-ranked team on the ropes in the 4th quarter up 23-13. The biggest win of the Fitzgerald era was right within their grasp.
It was a chance for a program defining win- ending the Buckeyes 17 winning game streak, the longest in the nation.
What happened instead was history repeating;
as once again OSU had their way with the Northwestern Wildcats, winning 40-30. And once again NU (it's NU not NW) blew a 4th quarter lead versus a name brand Big Ten
opponent. Although that final score is rather misleading, as the last touchdown by Ohio State was scored with time expiring.
It happened three times to the Northwestern Wildcats in 2012: Nebraska at home, Michigan
and Penn State
on the road. This time it was Ohio State’s turn. Another marquee league program, another blown opportunity for the Northwestern Wildcats to enrich their football history. They have a recent history of letting these opportunities get away