- Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern Wildcats University Northwestern University Conference(s) Big Ten NCAA Division I Athletics director James J. Phillips Location Evanston, IL Varsity teams 19 Football stadium Ryan Field Basketball arena Welsh-Ryan Arena Baseball stadium Rocky Miller Park Mascot Willie the Wildcat Nickname Wildcats Fight song Go U Northwestern Colors Purple and White Homepage www.nusports.com
The Northwestern Wildcats are the athletic teams that represent Northwestern University, a founding member of the Big Ten Conference and the only private university in the conference. Northwestern has eight men's and eleven women's Division I sports teams. The mascot is Willie the Wildcat. The athletic director is former Northern Illinois University Athletic Director Jim Phillips, who took office in April 2008.
Origin of the name
Northwestern's athletic teams are nicknamed the Wildcats. Before 1924, they were known as "The Purple" and unofficially as "The Fighting Methodists." The name Wildcats was bestowed upon the university in 1924 by Wallace Abbey, a writer for the Chicago Daily Tribune who wrote that even in a loss to the University of Chicago, "Football players had not come down from Evanston; wildcats would be a name better suited to Coach Glenn Thistletwaite's boys." The team was also referred to in the article as "a Purple wall of wildcats."  The name was so popular that university board members made "Wildcats" the official nickname just months later. In 1972, the student body voted to change the official nickname from "Wildcats" to "Purple Haze" but the new name never stuck.
Northwestern is a charter member of the Big Ten Conference and the only private institution in the conference. Currently, Northwestern fields 19 intercollegiate athletic teams (8 men's and 11 women's) in addition to numerous club sports. Current successful athletic programs include football, men's soccer, wrestling, men's swimming, men's golf, women's tennis, softball, fencing and women's lacrosse. The women's lacrosse team is the six-time NCAA national champion, and went undefeated in 2005. The men's basketball team is recognized by the Helms Athletic Foundation as the 1931 National Champion.
The Northwestern Athletics' mascot is Willie the Wildcat. However, the team's first mascot was not Willie, but a live, caged bear cub from the Lincoln Park Zoo named Furpaw. In fall 1923, Furpaw was driven to the playing field to greet the fans before each game. After a losing season, the team decided that Furpaw was the harbinger of bad luck and banished him from campus. Willie made his debut ten years later in 1933 as a logo, but did not actually come to life until 1947, when members of the Alpha Delta fraternity dressed up as him during the Homecoming parade. The Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB) performs at all home football and lead cheers in the student section and the alma mater at the end of the game.
In 1998, two former Northwestern basketball players were charged and convicted for sports bribery as a result of being paid to shave points in games against three other Big 10 schools during the 1995 season. The football team became embroiled in a different betting scandal later that year when federal prosecutors indicted four former players for perjury related to betting on their own games. In August 2001, Rashidi Wheeler, a senior safety, collapsed and died during practice from an asthma attack. An autopsy revealed that he had ephedrine, a stimulant banned by the NCAA, in his system which prompted Northwestern to investigate the prevalence of stimulants and other banned substances across all of its athletic programs. In 2006, the Northwestern women's soccer team was suspended and coach Jenny Haigh resigned following the release of images of alleged hazing.
During football games, students jingle their car keys before every kickoff and punt. When Northwestern is on defense, students extend their arms, make a claw with their hands, and growl. The "official" cheer at Northwestern sporting events is the chant "Go U! NU!" Students also commonly taunt opposing sports teams with "State-school, state-school," referencing that all institutions of the Big Ten conference, except for Northwestern, are public universities.
The Northwestern student section is led in their cheers by NUMB, the Northwestern University Marching Band. NUMB performs on the field and in the stands at all home games and follows the football team to one Big Ten away game per season.
For many years, students would throw marshmallows at the kick-off of football games. Northwestern archivist Patrick Quinn says that students were likely "trying to get them into the tubas, and then started throwing them at each other," leading to the tradition of throwing marshmallows at the field. While Gary Barnett was football coach, he banned marshmallows because they supposedly detracted from the serious level of football that he wanted for the school.
Northwestern's fight song is "Go U Northwestern" A secondary fight song is "Rise Northwestern (Push On Song)," the final 4-measure tag (ending with a shouted "Go, 'Cats!") of which is often played after first downs.
The Northwestern University football team has evidence of organization in 1876. Northwestern achieved an all-time high rank of #1 during the 1936 and 1962 seasons, which has thus far not been duplicated. The football team plays at Ryan Field (formerly known as Dyche Stadium). The football team has a history of futility: its all-time record is 468-614-44 (0.435) giving it the all-time record for Division I-A losses. Other dubious distinctions include being on the losing end of the greatest comeback in Division I-A history and holding the record for the longest losing streak in Division I-A, losing 34 consecutive games between 1979 and 1982.
The football team's rankings of 21 by the AP Poll and 23 by the Coaches Poll in 2005 marked the team's first appearance in a national poll in 4 years. The Wildcats finished the year ranked 25 in the BCS rankings and lost against UCLA in the Sun Bowl. Although the team was invited to the 1996 Rose Bowl, 1997 Citrus Bowl, 2000 Alamo Bowl, 2003 Motor City Bowl, 2005 Sun Bowl, 2008 Alamo Bowl, and the 2010 Outback Bowl, the last bowl game Northwestern won was the 1949 Rose Bowl. In 2004, Northwestern broke a 33-year losing streak (46 years at home) by defeating No. 7-ranked Ohio State 33-27.
Following the sudden death of football coach Randy Walker in 2006, 31-year old and former All-American Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald assumed the position becoming the youngest Division I FBS coach at the time.
The men's basketball team has never earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, and its last conference championship came in 1933, when it tied with Ohio State. However, it is recognized as the 1931 National Champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation. The team qualified for the 2009 NIT with a #5 seed, but lost to Tulsa in the first round. The team plays its home games in Welsh-Ryan Arena, where it is cheered on by the Wildside student section. Bill Carmody is the current coach of the Wildcats. Under Carmody, a former head coach at Princeton, the team runs the Princeton offense. The basketball team ended the 2010-11 season at 20-14, losing to the Washington State University in the quarterfinal of the NIT.
Northwestern has won the national championship in women's lacrosse five straight times, from 2005 to 2009. In 2007, the team joined Maryland as the only other school to three-peat. The run started in 2005, when the team enjoyed a perfect season and defeated many long-established east-coast schools after only five years as a varsity sport to capture the school's first national championship since 1941. In doing so, it became the westernmost institution to ever win the title. Soon after, the team made national news when members appeared in a White House photo with President Bush wearing thong sandals, or flip-flops, dubbed as the "White House flip-flop flap." The 2009 season also was an undefeated run. In their five championship seasons, the Wildcats have a 106-3 record.
In 2006 and 2007, Kristen Kjellman received the Tewaaraton Trophy, which honors the best collegiate lacrosse player in the country. She was the first player from a non-East coast school to win the distinction, and the first player to be a two-time winner. Midfielder Hannah Nielsen received the award in 2008.
The Northwestern softball program began in 1976 and has amassed 5 Big Ten championships, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, and 5 appearances in the Women's college World series- including 2007 and their national runner-up performance 2006.
In the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships held from 1924 through 1936, no team points were officially awarded. Northwestern won four unofficial national team championships during these years, which were proclaimed in the newspapers of the time, second only to Michigan's seven.
Their chief Big Ten rival is the Illinois Fighting Illini. In football, the teams annually compete for the Land of Lincoln Trophy. This trophy replaced the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Trophy in 2009 after the Tomahawk was deemed to be an offensive Native American symbol by the NCAA.
Northwestern fans have also cultivated strong rivalries with many Big Ten Conference foes, including Iowa and, particularly, Wisconsin. The rivalry with Wisconsin, the Big Ten conference school geographically closest to the Evanston campus, has grown stronger in recent years, though there is currently no official trophy for the football game.
Although the schools rarely play each other, there has been discussion of starting a rivalry game with Northern Illinois University to help boost attendance and interest during the non-conference schedule.
The 2005–2006 academic year was one of the best athletic seasons in Northwestern University's history. The football team capped a 7–5 season and third place finish in the Big Ten with a bid to the Sun Bowl. Following the women's lacrosse team's second National Championship, the Women's doubles tennis team of Christelle Grier and Alexis Prousis won the National Championship as well. In addition, Men's tennis player Peter Rispoli captured the Flight B Singles Championship. The Women's Softball team made an incredible run to the finals of the Women's College World Series, finishing in second place.
In May 2006 the website BadJocks.com republished photos a reader had found on Webshots of the women's soccer team hazing its freshmen. The whole team was suspended for a time as a result and in the wake of the incident Head Coach Jenny Haigh resigned. Since, Athletic Director Mark Murphy named Stephanie Erickson, the school's all-time leader in goals and points, as Haigh's replacement.
- Mike Adamle, American football player and sportscaster
- Damien Anderson, American football player (St. Louis Rams)
- Darnell Autry, American football player and actor (Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles)
- Louis Ayeni, American football player (Indianapolis Colts)
- Brett Basanez, American football player (Chicago Bears)
- D'Wayne Bates, American football player (Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings)
- Sybil Bauer, swimmer, gold medalist at the 1924 Summer Olympics in the 100 m backstroke
- Kevin Bentley, American football player (Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks)
- Scott Brownley, former American football player, now stand up comedian
- Luis Castillo, American football player (San Diego Chargers)
- Barry Cofield, American football player (New York Giants)
- Luke Donald, golfer
- John L. "Paddy" Driscoll, American football player
- Evan Eschmeyer, former basketball player (New Jersey Nets)
- Trai Essex, American football player (Pittsburgh Steelers)
- Pat Fitzgerald, former two-time All-American football player, current Northwestern head football coach
- Barry Gardner, American football player (Philadelphia Eagles)
- Joe Girardi, former baseball player, former manager of the Florida Marlins and current manager of the New York Yankees
- Jim Golliday, track
- Brian Gowens, American football player (Chicago Bears)
- Otto Graham, American football and basketball player (Cleveland Browns and Rochester Royals)
- Matt Grevers, American swimmer, gold medalist at the 2008 Summer Olympics
- J. A. Happ, pitcher, Houston Astros
- Napoleon Harris, American football player (Oakland Raiders) and (Minnesota Vikings)
- Noah Herron, American football player (Green Bay Packers)
- Chris Hinton, American football player (Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons)
- Mike Kafka, American football player (Philadelphia Eagles)
- John Kidd, American football player (Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and New York Jets)
- George Kontos, baseball player (New York Yankees)
- Mark Loretta, baseball player (Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Todd Martin, tennis player
- Sherrick McManis, American football player (Houston Texans)
- Brad North, soccer player (DC United)
- Matt O'Dwyer, American football player (New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals)
- Gene Oliver, Baseball player
- Marty Riessen, Tennis player
- Nick Roach, American football player (Chicago Bears)
- Betty Robinson, Track and Field, gold medalist in the 1928 Summer Olympics and the 1936 Summer Olympics
- Jeff Roehl, American football player
- Tyrell Sutton, American football player (Carolina Panthers)
- Steve Tasker, American football player (Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills)
- Rick Telander, sportswriter, author of "Heaven is a Playground"
- Corey Wootton, American football player (Chicago Bears)
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- Athletic Media Services Records (1871-2002), Northwestern University Archives, Evanston, Illinois
- Official Northwestern athletics site
Northwestern University AcademicsWeinberg College of Arts and Sciences • School of Communication • Bienen School of Music • Kellogg School of Management • McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science • Medill School of Journalism • School of Education and Social Policy • Feinberg School of Medicine • Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary • School of Law • The Graduate School • School of Continuing Studies ResearchArgonne/Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center • Infrastructure Technology Institute • Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology Campus Athletics Media Traditions People Big Ten Conference Legends Division Leaders Division Former team Championships & awards
National championships • Athlete of the Year
Big Ten Network Sports teams based in the Chicago metropolitan area Baseball Basketball Football Hockey LacrosseMCLC: Chi-town Lacrosse Club • Chicago Lacrosse Club • Lincoln Park Lacrosse Club • Northside Tribe • Windy City Lacrosse Club Roller derby Rugby Soccer Softball College athletics
(NCAA Division I)
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