Northwestern Football Forced Into Rebuilding Mode

Northwestern Football Forced Into Rebuilding Mode

Northwestern 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.


Tyler Scott, one of two Northwestern football players likely to hear his name called in the 2014 NFL Draft (Mel Kiper Jr. sees Kain Colter as a WR prospect) said the players talk about the missed opportunities against Ohio State all the time. And that’s really depressing. It shows you that Northwestern football just never recovered from blowing a double digit fourth quarter lead in the ESPN College Gameday contest. OSU was a program defining loss.

And everything spiraled downward from there. Which I chronicled in this same exact spot at the same exact time a week ago. With Northwestern football being home for the holidays for the first time in six years, it’s clear Fitzgerald’s program is now headed in a different direction; and it’s not the direction you want to be headed. There will have to be changes to Fitz’s staff. When you’re running speed option with Trevor Siemian and Mike Trumpy on third-and-9 in the opponent’s territory, the people responsible for making that decision should be on the hot seat. And there’s been a lot of Twitter momentum, FWIW, out there for NU Offensive Coordinator Mick McCall to be fired. It would not surprise me at all if McCall doesn’t return for 2014.

2014 brings with it a new mindset, one of rebuilding and restarting. There will be no preseason ranking. There will be no bowl game win to “build momentum off of,” if such a thing exists. (It doesn’t)  There will only be a huge letdown of a season to recover from. in the spring of ’13 the program sported shirts saying “5:03,” as in Northwestern football was 5:03 from being undefeated in 2012. The media has routinely and deservedly mocked this goofy slogan, which embodied a desperate attempt to make the program look more nationally relevant than it actually was. So 5:03 gets you what? A 50 point loss to Alabama in the national title game?

Sadly, the 5:03 also inadvertently represented two instances of “Northwesterning,” the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Northwestern football has Northwesterned five more times in 2013.


Finally, you need to see this tweet from Inside NU, a Northwestern website which I commonly refer to as “Inside NW” in a comical way (they do a good job here debunking Fitz’s misnomer catch-phrase “Stats are for Losers.” ) They did a good job catching a gaffe by the Northwestern football official Twitter account. You can see how the official Northwestern football account blatantly misquoted an ESPN Big Ten tweet to make themselves look better.

It’s pretty funny, and a great “teachable moment” or “cautionary example” of message control run amok. It’s “Trying Way Too Hard to Self-Promote Good Publicity 101”

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the nation; with regular weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSS

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