Thursday, August 27, 2009

More from you...

Once again I'm going to let the e-mail box dictate where this post goes. In this case though it will be less answering specific letter and more dealing with larger issues which fans seem to want addressed.

Issue 1: We still don’t have any recruits who have verbal for 2010 or 2011.

Personally, I wouldn’t worry that much about the 2011 guys yet. We’ve got offers out to 9 top-150 players and they all seem to be seriously considering NU. With guys like that, though, they’re getting offers from all over. If they’re smart, and since they’re considering NU they are, they’ll take their time to try and find the right fit. In the end I’m certain the class of 2011 will bring Northwestern very solid basketball talent.

2010 is somewhat more of a concern, but forward Griffin McKenzie visited NU last week and has listed the Wildcats in his final four schools. He seems like a good fit for NU and I believe a decent chance exists for the ‘Cats to land the 6-9 Ohioan.

Issue 2: Did you see the article which ranked NU the fifth best coaching job in the state?

Yeah I saw the article. However, the article refers to an anonymous poll of 22 coaches from around Illinois or who used to coach in Illinois. I don’t think that it was exactly a scientific survey. I also think the outside perception of NU is that it isn’t a great job because you don’t win. However, if you investigated and found out about the large salary and fairly strong fan support most people would change their point of view.

Issue 3: Kyle Rowley

I haven’t yet found out anymore about Kyle Rowley’s injury than was in the NU press release. I hope to find out more soon. Though NU is deep at center, Kyle’s sheer size is important to the NU program.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Craig Moore Blog

Former Wildcat Craig Moore has started a blog about his professional basketball career in Holland. You can read it here:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mail and Other Thoughts

I want to take the time today to answer some e-mails from readers and offer my thoughts on a few subjects. First, the poll conducted about Bill Carmody’s flaws as a coach has finished with 53% of the fans voting that people should stop complaining about Carmody. On the other hand, a poll over at The Purple Drank had 60% of NU’s fans supporting the idea that Pat Fitzgerald would be a better basketball coach than Carmody. What does this apparent disagreement in poll results mean? Probably that different people voted in each poll. What else does it mean? That the debate about Carmody’s skills as a coach will continue in NU circles until the Wildcats arrive at the NCAA Tournament or Carmody arrives in the unemployment line. I think the odds are this year will result in one of the two.

Now let us turn to some mail.

Dan J. writes, “What’s the deal with this 2011 recruiting class I keep hearing about. Is NU going to land any of those guys or is this just all talk?”

Well, first off I think that a total of 9 top-150 players are considering NU is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that two 5-star recruits are doing do. This speaks well to both Carmody and Hardy and the other coaches on NU’s staff. They are obviously working hard to get NU’s name out to amongst the top players in the nation. Can NU actually land these guys? I think the fact that both 5-star guys, Shannon Scott and Dai-Jon Parker play for the same AAU team could really help. That team, The Southern Kings, had several players visit NU after one of their assistant coaches took some classes at Kellogg and recommended his guys visit Evanston.

CentralCat writers, “I’ve noticed some different topics lately. What are you going to write about between now and basketball season?”

Honestly, I’ve asked myself the same question several times. I have to say that I won’t ignore football news. Yes, this is a basketball blog first, but it is also an NU blog and if the Wildcats are bowl-bound in football I’ll certainly have some thoughts to share about that. I think most loyal readers have noted my various football related posts over the summer.

TL114 writes, “You posted a bunch about Greg Paulus becoming Syracuse’s QB earlier this year. Now that he’s been named the started, what do you think will happen?”

Great question. How good can a guy be who hasn’t played a real football game in four years? I suppose that depends on just how much talent he has. Greg was a top-rated high school QB. That talent didn’t go away, but it also hasn’t be practiced in years. I for one think that you can’t be at the top of your game if you don’t practice the skills you need to get there. Therefore, I think Paulus will get better as the year goes along. Playing NU in game three I still think he’ll be rusty, but if Coach Marrone sticks with him, I think his natural talent will merge with game experience and he’ll have a nice year, at least in terms of numbers if not wins.

A Link

I've been pretty busy, but I'll have some new posts up a little later. For now, though, take a look at this article from about NU's 2011 recruiting targets.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kyle Rowley Suffers Foot Injury

NU Center Kyle Rowley suffered a fracture in his left foot today while at a basketball clinic in Chicago. There is currently no timetable for his return. The fact is foot injuries, especially with big guys, can be unpredictable. All NU fans remember Evan Eschmeyer missing two years with a bad foot. The good news, if there is any when something like this happens, is that center is the position at which NU has the most depth.

Monday, August 17, 2009

So, It is Football Season...

As it is football season I want to offer some brief thoughts about the Big Ten this upcoming year. First off, I think this is a very important season for Northwestern. It is a chance to post a second consecutive winning season and get to a bowl game for the second year in a row. Considering that hasn’t happened in more than a decade, I think that is pretty significant. I also think Northwestern should be able to do that with relative ease. I know that doesn’t sound typical for a Northwestern fan, but when you play Towson, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse and Miami Ohio in non-conference games you should finish the non-Big Ten season 4-0. The only one of those games which worries me is Syracuse. Going to New York could be much tougher than hosting the Orange at home. However, I think it’s a lot to ask for Coach Doug Marrone to turn that program around in his first season. Especially if his quarterback turns out to be a guy who was shooting jump shots at Duke less than six months ago. NU’s other non-conference opponents also have new coaches and personnel in key spots and the ‘Cats should be 3-0 before the Big Ten and 4-0 in non-Big Ten regular season games.

Despite the usual rips in the national media, the Big Ten might be a little tougher this year than last. NU misses Michigan which, funny as it sounds, is a major disadvantage in the Big Ten race. The Maize and Blue might be a little better in year two under Rich Rod, but they aren’t going go from three wins to nine or ten. NU also misses Ohio State which is obviously a plus. NU hasn’t played well against the Buckeyes since upsetting them in 2004. Therefore, it is probably just as well that NU avoids them in this critical year. Obviously the best team in the Big Ten is Penn State. They have Darryl Clark back at QB and Evan Royster back at running back. At least NU gets them at home. Other teams people are considering for the top of the Big Ten include Iowa and Michigan State. Personally, I think Iowa and Michigan State have talent similar to Northwestern. Why MSU gets lots of preseason pup when they also have to replace their starting QB and RB is beyond me. Heck, NU actually has a QB and RB stepping in who have started games. MSU doesn’t even know who their QB is right now. Iowa’s positive hype comes from the QB position as Ricky Stanzi earned the job and is expected to do big things. To do so, though, he’ll need running back Jewel Hampton to have a year similar to departed back Shon Green. If Northwestern is going to beat MSU and Iowa, which are both road games, it’ll be because NU has a better defense than those squads. Iowa losses two all-world defensive tackles while NU returns with one of the top D-Lines in the Big Ten. Michigan State is a team who has good defensive players, but other than perhaps linebacker, I think NU is stronger on that side of the ball. NU’s secondary has been rightly ranked at the top of the league by most publications.

As far as the rest of the Big Ten, I think Indiana and Purdue need some work. Indiana is probably better because they have a decent defense, but they’ll need a big year from QB Ben Chappell if they want to finish higher than ninth. Two other teams which NU needs to be ready for are Illinois and Minnesota. Both have a ton of offensive weapons, but both underachieved last year. Minnesota turned a 7-1 start into a 7-6 finish and Illinois went from 9 wins and the Rose Bowl to 5 wins and no bowl. What’ll happen to those teams this year? I think Illinois will turn things around somewhat. I expect to at least see the Illini in a bowl. Minnesota I think is probably about as good as they were last year. Whether they make a bowl (or what type of bowl) will depend on their games against the teams in the middle to upper-middle tier of the Big Ten. Northwestern is one of those teams and I know Minnesota wants revenge for the past two years.

The only Big Ten team I haven’t at least mentioned briefly is Wisconsin. With do respect to the Badgers, I’m a little disappointed to see them at the end of our schedule instead of Illinois. NU football doesn’t have any trophy games except Illinois and I liked that it was played the last week of the season for the past decade. That said, Wisconsin and NU have played some great games with each side winning their share of nail bitters in the years since Gary Barnett took over NU in 1992 (remember that ’92 game, Badger fans). So what can we expect for the NU-Wisconsin game this year. Well, like NU Wisconsin is a team which is somewhat in transition. Again, though, NU seems more stable. Wisconsin has a wide open QB situation and their defense didn’t exactly dominate in last year’s 7-6 season. Still they do have RB John Clay and he’s got to be good enough for 3 or 4 wins alone. How many more can the Badger get? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both them and the Wildcats with around 7 total victories and battling each other for an upper-level bowl when the teams meet in Evanston this November.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wildcats Have Something to Prove in Both Football and Basketball (And They Will Prove It)

For very different reasons both Northwestern’s football team and men’s basketball team have a lot to prove in their upcoming seasons. Both had what I would call successful seasons last year, but many doubters remain. The sense I get inside the Northwestern community is that Wildcat Nation stands in direct opposition to those who doubt the gridiron ‘Cats. We expect Coach Fitz’s crew to ride a strong defense and Mike Kafka’s legs to a minimum of 8 wins. At the same time, though, Wildcat Nation is much more divided in its expectations for Coach Carmody’s basketball Wildcats. The optimistic Wildcat hoops fans are still cautious in their optimism, but they fully expect last season’s win total of 17 to increase into the 20s and perhaps place the ‘Cats in the NCAA tournament. The less optimistic feel that Bill Carmody simply doesn’t have what it takes to get Northwestern into the NCAA tournament and will likely be looking for work when his contract runs out.

While it might be frustrating to some to hear negative comments about the team we support, I think it is important to remember that those comments bother us far more than the players or coaches. The players and coaches either don’t bother to read the negatives written in magazines, newspapers, and internet sites or they use them as motivation. One of the most powerful forms of motivation is the desire to prove that you can accomplish a feat which others think you have no chance to accomplish.

I believe both Northwestern teams will use this form of motivation and excel in the coming seasons. I’ve already heard the NU receiving core has responded to the fact nearly every preseason publication has ranked them at the bottom of the Big Ten by introducing themselves during media day by saying, “I’m nobody.” What they really mean is they’re nobody yet, but Andrew Brewer, Sidney Stewart, and Jeremy Ebert have confidence that by November everybody will know their names.

Really, with the fact NU loses so many skill positions players I can almost understand why some prognosticators aren’t picking NU as high as I think maybe they should. What is upsetting is those prognosticators who predict Northwestern to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten just because it is Northwestern. The past is the past, people need to look at the now. Fitz hasn’t yet won a Big Ten Title as a coach (just wait and maybe not too long), but he’s got the program in great shape. I seriously doubt we’ll ever see any total disaster years at NU with him running the show.

Basketball wise, I again ask people to evaluate in the now, not the past. Yes, NU basketball has a horrible history. Way worse than NU football (expect for that 1931 National Title which I’m still hoping NU’s AD will take note of), but last year was a very successful season for NU. Yes, it at times had the feel of a rollercoaster with some amazing highs and remarkable lows, but it was still a winning season. NU’s players (and coaches) both had some of the best performances I’ve seen from those associated with Wildcat hoops. Off that winning season NU brings back its best player in Kevin Coble and a great team leader in Juice Thompson. The Wildcats also bring in their second consecutive high-level recurring class. There is no reason not to believe such a team will improve over the previous season. If the recruits and the sophomores really step it up to help Coble and Juice they might even improve a lot. If NU’s basketball players do hear the doubters out there, I hope they take a lesson for NU’s football squad and embrace the doubt with the quiet confidence that comes with knowing you will be successful no matter what others say.

Simply put, right now Northwestern has the chance to prove the doubters wrong and put together very successful seasons in football and men’s basketball that prove to be jumping off points for sustained success. And I say to those fans who can’t get over NU’s past struggles, get out of the past. The Wildcats of today can beat anybody. Welcome to the future.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Links

For those who might have missed it, John at Chicago College Basketball wrote an article about Kevin Coble. I think he makes a good point which is worth noting if you're an NU fan. Here's the link:

Also worth a look is the latest post from Black and Purple which highlights why NU has to win 9 games to avoid the Motor City Bowl if the rest of the Big Ten can win 7 games. I'll never fully understand why bowls spend so much time looking at how many fans show up for our home games, but then don't seem to pay attention to how many fans we bring to bowl trips. Link:

If NU wants to fill more seats for both football and basketball it does start, though doesn't end, with winning on the field. Take a look at and you get the feeling NU football is going to do its part. By the way, I think Skip Myslenski was a great hire for He brings great talent and ton of experience and gives us fans fun new stuff to read about the 'Cats all the time now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

DePaul Releases Schedule: No Northwestern

DePaul released its basketball schedule today. Much to my surprise, NU is not on the schedule. Here's a link:

NU does owe DePaul a home game and DePaul's website states they will play in 2010-11, but I wonder if it was NU or DePaul who forced a break in the Chicago-area series this year. Is DePaul trying to make their schedule easier or is NU going to really have a collection of tough and meaningful games? Right now it looks like DePaul is trying to take an easier route through the non-conference season, but we'll see what it looks lile when NU releases its schedule.

News, Notes, and Polls

John Templon at Chicago College Basketball has finished his top 10 countdown of the city’s greatest college hoops players. The list includes two Wildcats in Evan Eschmeyer and Joseph Reiff. Are they the two best ever to play at NU? Well, they are certainly among the best. Others who are worthy of consideration include Billy McKinley, Kevin Rankin, Vedran Vukusic, Pat Baldwin, and Jitim Young. I also wonder where Kevin Coble will rank if he becomes the first player to lead his Wildcat team to the NCAA Tournament.

NU opened football practice yesterday. Though I consider this much more of a basketball blog, I can’t really ignore the start of what is many people’s favorite athletic season. I’ll have some football posts up in the next few weeks as we lead into the season opener against Towson.

Finally, The Purple Drank has run a couple tongue-in-check (and pretty funny) polls recently about NU’s basketball coaching situation. The first poll discovered that roughly 50% of NU fans think Bill Carmody could out coach a wet paper bag (why do I think some NU fan is going to create in the near future?) and now that roughly 2/3rds of Wildcat fans think Pat Fitzgerald could out coach Carmody in basketball. Now I’m well aware of the debate about Carmody’s coaching skills. Personally, I think Carmody is a very good coach and he's about to prove Kevin O'Neill right about NU being a 10 year building (not rebuilding) project. But for those people who don't like Carmody, I'm wondering what do you perceive as Carmody’s biggest weakness? The new poll in the upper righthand corner gives you chance to offer your thoughts on Carmody both good and bad. I think getting a sense of such information might help focus this debate. You can also comment below.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Changing the Perception of NU Hoops

Football season is very much on the horizon with only 26 days till kickoff and basketball season is actually less than 100 days away. What potentially makes these upcoming seasons very special is both NU football and Men’s and Women’s Basketball have the potential to have big years. One fact which has been somewhat under publicized is that last year both NU’s football and Men’s Basketball team made the postseason in the same year for the first time. Though this fact might make some think of NU’s poor athletic history, I see this as a signal that NU’s major sports are moving forward. I bring this up because several articles about NU sports have been published recently. Skip Myslenski wrote an article for about the changing perception of NU football and an article (linked below) appeared on about NU basketball. Obviously, NU’s football program probably has gone a longer way towards changing the perception of Northwestern sports. Certainly there is work yet to be done, and I think certain fans will never change their beliefs. Still, Northwestern’s 24-24 football record since 2003 is solidly in the middle of the Big Ten. Basketball wise, though, NU hasn’t been as successful, but NU did make strong progress from 2002-06 and last year. What Northwestern hasn’t done in hoops, though, is consistently make the postseason. Although I’m as disappointed as anyone at NU’s consistent Bowl losses, NU has made bowl games in 2003, 2005, and 2008. The ‘Cats also should have made bowls in 2004 and 2007. Those might not be Florida numbers, but they aren’t half bad compared to where NU has been in past and where half the Big Ten has been since 2003. If NU makes a bowl this year and wins I think it’ll really change on fans see Northwestern football.

The question, though, is what needs to happen for the perception of NU basketball to change. The easy answer is to make the NCAA Tournament, and that would help, but I think even more needs to happen. Many football fans still think NU had “one good year” that’s why the Wildcats need a bowl win. Therefore, I don’t think just making the NCAA Tournament once would be enough to change how people see NU hoops. A run to the NCAAs would be a great moment for NU sports. Depending how it happens, it might even be bigger than the Rose Bowl, but it wouldn’t swing people’s view of NU basketball as dramatically as we might hope.

The first thing that needs to happen for people to change how they see NU hoops is for the team to consistently make a tournament. It doesn’t have to always be the NCAAs, but finishing consistently above .500 and beating teams in the Big Ten will force other fans to take notice as the Wildcats beat their teams. NU having winning records over more than half of the Big Ten since 1995 is part of what has slowly changed football’s perception.

Another key fact that will help make the perception of NU basketball change is for NU to produce notable star players. I think guys like Fitz, Zak Kustok, Damian Anderson, and Jason Wright really helped non-NU fans take notice of NU football. When a guy wins big awards or puts up historic numbers fans can’t help but want to watch him play. When they see that guy is surrounded by some pretty talented teammates, they gain even more respect for the program that player is part of. I think NU basketball is moving in this direction with Kevin Coble. I also think there is great potential for even more of that with a potentially amazing recruiting class coming to NU in 2011.

A third key way for the perception of NU basketball to change is for NU hoops to be on ESPN or CBS more than once or twice a season. I love the Big Ten Network, but getting on ESPN and ABC was one of the biggest moments of change for NU football. The 1995 Penn State game wasn’t just critical because NU beat Penn State, it was critical because Keith Jackson and ABC sports showed up to broadcast it. ESPN/ABC is still the network which true sports fans watch and has the experts which the most fans respect. If you’re on ESPN and ESPN’s talking heads talk about you, you get the respect of most fans. I am optimistic that after last year’s season NU will appear on ESPN and CBS more this year.

There are probably fifty more things which I could list here, but I want to conclude with one more which I see as critical. That is for Northwestern itself to promote the team. Though many fans started to give NU football the respect it deserved under Gary Barnett and Randy Walker, it seems even more opposing fans are starting to admire NU thanks to Pat Fitzgerald’s ubiquitous presence in the media. I know some people will say media appearances aren’t Bill Carmody’s thing, but I disagree. Carmody actually is a pretty good interview. He’s funny, personable, and more honest than any other coach. He is also, despite what some say, a very good coach who is well respected by the basketball community. Given the chance Carmody could win over just as many fans as Fitz, but I don’t see him making as nearly as many appearances on radio and TV. If he doesn’t want to do so, well, then that’s tough. Somebody has to make him. Not only will it help promote the program, but it might also eliminate another of NU’s negative perceptions—empty seats.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Memorabilia: Farewell to McGaw, Welcome to Welsh-Ryan Arena

Today’s Northwestern memorabilia post focuses on items given to fans at the last game at the old McGaw Hall and the first at brand new Welsh-Ryan Arena in 1983. People often have very negative things to say about Welsh-Ryan Arena today, but I think it has a lot of good points. Still, I have to admit that I suspect there have not been a ton of changes to Welsh-Ryan since McGaw was remodeled in 1983 and some areas of the building show that pretty prominently. The concourse being the most obvious.

First off we have a hard hat which was given to fans at the last game hosted at McGaw Hall in 1982. With the building getting remodeled, the hard hat was a pretty cool giveaway. I can imagine fans, at least in the student section, might even have enjoyed wearing those the next season as well.
Next up we have key chair in the form of a ticket which was given to fans at the first game NU hosted in the remodeled Welsh-Ryan Arena. You can see in the close up at this point the arena was being called Welsh-Ryan Arena in McGaw Hall. Now, despite the fact the building is still McGaw Hall, that full name has been dropped. I also want to say I have no idea why NU chose Section 103 Row H Seat 11 as the seat for the key chair. I suspect some reason must have existed, perhaps it was the first seat installed.

News and Notes: Chicago College Baskeetball named 1931 hero Joseph Reiff the fourth best player in Chicago Basketball history. Here the link:


Take a look at this Rivals story on NU:

Also, stay tuned for some more classic NU gear from the closing of McGaw Hsll and opening of Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Visit This Link

John Templon at Chicago College Basketball is doing a countdown of the 10 best players in the history of Chicago college hoops. Today he listed #6, former NU star Evan Eschmeyer. I'm sorry to say that John would have had a photo of Eschmeyer with his story, but I was slow in checking my e-mail and the picture didn't get in his story.

Update: Thankfully, I was able to get John the schedule card I was sent by fellow blogger Jon Solomon and the story now has a picture of Esch. The next question is will John's list have any other Wildcats. We'll have to see.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wildcat Roster: Center

I’ve covered a lot of topics in the last few weeks, but I haven’t done that many posts focused specifically on next basketball season. Today I want to take the time to talk about one spot on the Wildcat roster which I think is critically important. That position is the center spot. At the end of last season I reviewed each position group and gave out grades. The center spot received the lowest grade, but considering oldest player to play that spot was a sophomore, I think the low score was understandable. However, with a year of experience I expect many NU fans are looking for a lot of improvement from the center position. Specifically, I think fans are looking to see some notable improvement in Kyle Rowley and Luka Mirkovic. Rowley was the primary starter last year, but it was Mirkovic who really showed improvement and gave NU fans hope for the future. Mirkovic showed a nice ability to pass with 40 assists and to shoot by making 4-of-10 threes. Obviously, Mirkovic didn’t attempt many threes, but he also showed touch on some long twos like the one key basket against Michigan State which helped NU run out its lead. The fact is the Princeton Offense gets better with more versatile centers. If Luka becomes more willing to take threes and makes at least 35% it will help NU a ton. Especially since without Craig Moore to fire in threes from just past half court NU will need a more balanced shooting attack.

Kyle Rowley it seemed went a little different direction from Mirkovic. His progressed slowed during the season and despite starting most games, his minutes dropped in Big Ten play. One trait Rowley has which can’t be taken away is his size. At 7-0 feet he would have been NU’s only center option on some past teams. Now, he is joined by Mirkovic, Davide Curletti and Ivan Peljusic. Still, Rowley is the guy that could be a true difference maker with his size. He’ll likely never be a step back shooter, but he’s actually a decent passer and with his size he ought to get offensive rebounds. Stuffing the assist and offensive rebound columns would in my mind make up for not taking threes. Rowley did turn the ball over 38 times last year, but most of those were on travels. Given that Rowley hasn’t played a ton of organized basketball it is understandable that he at times suffered from indecision and shuffled his feet. That is why I believe Rowley’s summer experience with the Trinidad and Tobago National Team was some valuable. Yes, Rowley didn’t get as much time on the court as he might have wanted, but just being in an organized basketball practice setting was likely way more beneficial than if he’d just been playing pick up games. Maybe next summer NU can send Rowley to a big man camp to further his development.

For brief moments last year Davide Curletti and Ivan Peljusic also played some center for NU. Both are a little smaller than Rowley and Mirkovic and might fit better at power forward. However, they both had some nice moments. Peljusic used his athletic skill to take over the Florida State game when NU needed a spark. Curletti started the game against Ohio State and played very solid defense against OSU’s large front line. I believe both could be quality players in the right situation. It will likely depend on how much improvement we see from Rowley and Mirkovic if that situation dictates a lot of time as a backup center or some time at power forward.
Links: Rivals poster pschatz25 has linked a collection of old Wildcat newspaper and headlines and posters. Take a look:
Craig Moore will keep playing basketball, he signed with Dutch Basketball Club DeFriesland Aris Leeuwarden:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Memorabilia: More Schedule Cards

Two events inspired this post in which I want to take a look at some more NU memorabilia. First, I picked up a new schedule card for NU’s 2009 football season. Second, reader Jon Solomon from sent me a couple old NU schedule cards he found from the late 90s and 2001 (Thanks, Jon).

If you remember my last post on schedule cards I discussed what I believed made for a good schedule card and what did not. I think overall what you’ll see today are good examples of schedule cards—this year's football card included. However I do have on major issue with the 2009 football schedule card and I will be fascinated to see if others are share my feelings.

First off you see both men’s and women’s basketball schedule cards from the 98-99 season. For the men’s team, of course, this was a successful year with an NIT qualification. Aside from positive memories, what I like about these two schedule cards is they show actions shots. Both feature photos which I think would catch someone’s eye if the walked by these cards as they entered a restaurant.

Next up, we have football schedule cards. First from the 2001 season and then from this upcoming season. The 2001 card features a semi-action shot as Zak Kustok is looking to pass, but I’m not sure it’s as exciting as the shot of Evan Eschmeyer going to the hoop. Still, I really like the fact the 2001 football card featured a slogan, “Chicagoland’s Big 10 Show” while that campaign wasn’t super-successful, it was nice to see NU trying to brand itself in Chicago.

As you can see below, this year’s schedule card features the “Play Smart - Play with Integrity” slogan which has started to show up on NU football merchandise recently. I like that slogan as to me it represents the ideals of Northwestern athletics very well. This year’s schedule card also continues the trend which started in the last couple years of indentifying the player on the card. I think this is a great improvement over the past schedule cards which did not do this. Sure, if you were an NU fan in 2001 you knew Zak Kustok on sight, but it is possible some casual sports fans in Chicago might know a players name, but not be able to put a jersey number to that name. Indentifying the player helps those casual fans make more of a connection with NU. It’s even better when the picture shows the player making an eye-catching play. In that regard, the picture of Corey Wotton on this year’s card isn’t bad. It shows him stopping and ball carrier and gives the viewer a sense of Corey’s size and strength. However, I do have one major issue with the picture featured. Corey Wotton played in 13 football games last fall. Of those football games, Northwestern won 9 and I think Corey made big plays in all 9 of those wins. Therefore, I really have to ask why of all the pictures to use was one of the Indiana game selected (Does this bother anyone else?). Yes, I know it’s just a picture and really makes no difference, but loyal readers can probably tell I spend a lot of time thinking about past NU games. I really enjoy remembering the great wins, but I try to block out the really painful losses. Indiana was the most painful and disheartening loss of last season and personally I’d like to keep blocking that out. Wasn’t there a picture of Corey sacking the SIU QB in the rain that could have been used? The Big Ten Network sure enjoyed running clips of those sacks during Fitz’s press conference during media day.

Still, overall the new schedule card isn’t bad. The picture does, I’ll admit, catch your eye and I like how the new three-fold style allows for more information. I also like how the 2010 schedule is listed as well, though, it would help a lot if NU could find a 12th game so the schedule was actually complete. Hopefully we’ll know that soon, but before we worry about 2010, let’s hope that new schedule card helps get some people out to games in 2009.