Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Shirt

No response yet from Northwestern in regards to my efforts to get the athletic department to recognize the Wildcats 1931 NCAA Basketball National Championship, but I’m not giving up. Based on an earlier discussion, I visited a website called where you can custom design T-shirts. While there, I produced a 1931 National Champions shirt. Looking at the result, I have to admit I'm not be the greatest T-shirt designer, though, I don’t think I’m awful either. Nevertheless, I’d love for the folks at Let’s Tailgate to take a crack at a version. They'd would no doubt make a better product. Whatever the case, I’ll wear the shirt to NU’s first home football game on September 5th and you never know whose attention it might catch.

News and Notes: NU recuirting target Josh Gasser just picked up an offer from Maryland. This shows Gasser’s talent level, which is good. It is gives NU more competition for his services, which might be bad. In related news, blog Carmody Court offers up thoughts on NU’s need for a point guard.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Poll Results Thoughts

A new poll has been posted based on the increasing chatter both in the media and on-line regarding the Wrigley Field game. Before you vote, though, here are some thoughts on the last two polls at Welsh-Ryan Ramblings.

The poll conducted regarding NU’s 1931 Helms Foundation NCAA Basketball National Championship featured about 70% of NU fans supporting NU recognizing the title. The other 30% of voters were split nearly evenly between auguring NU shouldn’t recognize the title and not really caring since the event occurred in 1931. I think what this poll shows is that the majority of NU fans would be supportive should NU recognize the 1931 National Champions. Even those who said they were opposed probably wouldn’t vehemently protest an acknowledgement of the title in the media guide. I think they are more opposed to a banner raising ceremony which comes nearly 80 years late. If I’m missing the boat here please leave a message in the comment section.

The second poll conducted featured the question of what old “kind of” classic game fans might want to see rerun. Aside from discovering that this wasn’t a topic many were interested in (this poll got the lowest vote total in WRR history) it revealed the NU football game against Minnesota in 2007 does have some folks who’d like to take a second look. Personally, I’d love to get the chance to TiVo and watch all the NU wins which aired on the BTN in football and basketball during the 2007-08 school year as at the time I like many others did not have the BTN on my cable system.

News and Notes: ranks NU Women's Basketball's Recruiting class number 20 in the nation:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Thoughts on NU Playing Football at Wrigley Field

The idea of Northwestern playing a football game at Wrigley Field has been a topic since athletic director Jim Phillips floated the idea last fall. Today the Chicago Tribune mentioned that issues regarding player safety and financing need to be resolved before the game becomes a reality. Illinois football coach Ron Zook stated this morning that he was supportive of the idea. My response to that is of course Zook likes the idea, if the game is an NU home game Zook gets the best of both worlds. He gets to play in Chicago where Illinois has a ton of fans, but he doesn’t lose a home game himself. To be honest, I am strongly supportive of NU playing one game at Wrigley Field, but I am strongly opposed to making the Illini the opponent. The reason for my opposition to playing Illinois is more or less the fact that I do think the move would work strongly in their favor. Illinois has more fans in Chicago than any other Big Ten team. Yes, they don’t always show up for games at Ryan Field, but without a doubt a legion of Illini fans would show up for the contest at Wrigley. That would turn the contest into an Illinois home game despite the fact that it was Northwestern who gave up a game in their own home stadium to play a novelty game. Also, I want to point out that right now NU’s 2010 schedule actually only features five home games. Yes, NU only has 11 scheduled games so odds are that the 12th game will be played at home, but playing Illinois means that NU would basically play only 5 home games in 2010. That would put NU at a huge competitive disadvantage compared to the rest of the Big Ten and all BCS conference football teams.

As far as I can tell, the goal Jim Phillips has for a Wrigley Field game is to get some fans to take notice of the Northwestern program and then travel to Ryan Field for a game. That could happen. If folks who haven’t ever been to an NU game do travel to Ryan Field I think they would be pleased with the experience. However, if the opponent for the game at Wrigley is Illinois then the effort to achieve this goal is meaningless. Illinois vs Northwestern will sell out at Wrigley, that’s a guarantee you can’t make with another opponent. The problem is that all 40,000 fans will be either NU fans that come to home games at Ryan Field anyway or Illini fans who aren’t going to magically become NU fans just because of a game played at Wrigley. If Northwestern plays a non-conference opponent, such as Rice in 2011, the fact is attendance will likely be lower. I do not, however, think it will be dramatically lower. Some Chicago sports fans will attend the game for the curiosity of seeing football at Wrigley Field. These are the types of fans that I believe Northwestern needs to lure to Evanston. NU can use such a game to market their program to these people by giving them season ticket information. I really believe there are enough sports fans in Chicago to increase the regular attendance at Ryan Field. People just need to realize how great an entertainment value Northwestern football has compared with many of Chicago’s pro sports. If people realize this I believe attendance can increase. However, Illinois fans aren’t going to lineup to buy Wildcat season tickets no matter where a game is played. If we’re going to play at Wrigley, let’s play a team that allows casual Chicago sports fans to attend the game and fall in love with the play of Coach Fitz’s Wildcats.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another not quite classic NU game that the BTN could rerun

Whether it’s healthy or not is debatable, but as is evidenced by several past posts I'm always thinking about past NU games I'd like to see again and a recent trip to purchase an HD TV reminded me of another Northwestern football game which was exciting enough for a repeat viewing, though, not particularly important in the grand scheme of NU football history. That game was Northwestern’s 2002 49-40 win at Navy. In that wild contest both Jason Wright and Noah Herron rushed for over 100 yards and in only his third career start freshman quarterback Brett Basanez directed an NU attack which Navy’s defense couldn’t stop. Now, you might ask why did shopping for an HD TV make me remember that contest. Well, that game was broadcast exclusively on HDnet (it was also run on tape delay on Comcast SportsNet in Maryland). Now, I was actually at this game as the sideline reporter on the WNUR broadcast crew so I didn’t get to see the original HD broadcast (my father did since he went to an electronics store with HD TVs instead of listening to me and my colleagues), but I strongly suspect it is sitting in the achieves somewhere at either HDnet’s cooperate offices or the Naval Academy gathering dust. Given this fact, I see no reason why the Big Ten Network couldn’t get their hands on this contest and rerun the game. I have to give great credit to the BTN for the number of games they do in HD. One of my best friends went to a Mountain West school and he often complains about how few games on The Mountain (the MWC’s own network) are in HD. Given that HD TV was in its relatively infancy in 2002 the odds are most NU fans who weren’t in Annapolis never saw this game. Let me tell you, it was worth seeing. I remember it being nearly impossible to keep up with the frantic pace of the game as the running games of both schools plowed through defenses with ease. In fact, in terms of scoring the game is similar to several of the NU classics from 2000 or 2005, the rest of the season in 2002 simply wasn’t as good (Actually it was rather terrible). Still, from my point of view, of the many games rerun on networks like the BTN or ESPN Classic, the most watchable are those with high entertainment value, say a high scoring affair like the 54-51 win over Michigan, or games with great novelty, such as a game very few people saw live. This contest fits both bills and I would love to see it again.
The Wildcats line up on defense vs Navy in 2002

Saturday, July 25, 2009

NU Football Tickets Offer Hope for Acknowledgement of 1931 Championship

When I opened the FedEx envelope with my 2009 football tickets I became hopeful that Northwestern might actually be moving towards recognizing our 1931 NCAA Basketball Title. How is this the case? Well, as you can see below, this year’s tickets feature All-American players from NU’s past. From Otto Graham to Zach Strief, the Northwestern ticket office has decided to honor Wildcats of the past by putting them on the NU football season tickets. I take this as a positive step that the folks at Northwestern’s Athletic Department want to acknowledge the successes and achievements of past players and teams. Considering a National Championship is the highest point of achievement for any college sports team, I am optimistic Northwestern might soon start giving acknowledgement of the 1931 team’s accomplishments some serious consideration. I still encourage those who have not done so to sign the petition and to encourage others to do so as well. I hope that at some point this season the support from the NU community for acknowledgement of the past will lead to a banner honoring the 1931 title team.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Classic NU games which aired originally on the BTN

NU beat Michigan on the BTN in 2008 and it'd be great to see that win again...

The good news for NU fans is the upcoming Big Ten Network schedule has several repeats of classic NU games listed as airing in the next few days and weeks. This is great, except that other than last year's football final vs Illinois (airing twice Saturday) all the classic games are games which the BTN has already aired a bunch of times. Here at Welsh-Ryan Ramblings we love watching classic NU sports, but we also like variety. As a result, here are a couple classics which one has to assume would be easy to rebroadcast since they aired on the BTN originally.

2007 football vs Nevada: This game featured a great finish which rivals many of NU’s classic conclusions over the years. If it had been against a Big Ten opponent, I think it would rank on the all-time list. As it is, it’s still exciting and well worth a repeat viewing.

2007 football vs Minnesota: I mentioned this on my earlier list of classics which the BTN should air, but I want to add that it’s actually a better game than the 2007 MSU game which the BTN airs all the time.

2007-2008 basketball vs Michigan: It was NU’s only conference win and a pretty good game. Classic Craig Moore if nothing else.

2008-2009 basketball vs DePaul: NU hammers the Demons 63-36, well worth a second (or third) watching.

2008-2009 basketball vs/at Indiana: NU beat the Hoosiers twice last season. They won at home in a dramatic game in Welsh-Ryan and then recorded their first win at Assembly Hall in a blow out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2010 Recruiting: Time to Worry?

The quest to get Northwestern to recognize the 1931 National Championship isn’t over, but I want to jump into the future 79 years and look at an issue which is of pressing concern to many Wildcat fans. In recent weeks I’ve reported on the recruiting success of NU’s Women’s Hoops program. However, news on the men’s recruiting front has been quiet since Drew Crawford and Alex Marcotullio committed last fall. As a result, NU has no verbal commits in the class of 2010 while many other schools have several. This leaves many fans are asking who the Wildcats will sign this fall. Lately, thanks to several high-profile targets committing elsewhere, some NU fans have even voiced concern over NU’s ability to sign any recruits at all this fall.

For those who aren’t aware, NU has in recent weeks lost out in recruiting battles for local guards Alex Rossi (from New Trier) and Ben Brust (from Mundelein). I believe thanks to NU’s recent local success many assumed landing at least one these two players was a sure thing. The fact is, though, recruiting is never an exact science. For some players being closer to home is a draw. For other players that same factor is a huge negative. You also can’t predict how friendships with other players might impact a decision. When Cully Payne was going to attend Alabama his friendship with Brust wasn’t making much difference in where Brust planned to attend school. Once Payne decommitted from ‘Bama and decided to attend Iowa, however, his relationship with Brust was a key factor in the Hawkeye recruiting victory. Depressing as it is to lose such a kid to a conference foe, I’m not sure what Northwestern could have done to sway Brust’s choice.

With loss of Rossi and Brust, the question NU fans must ask is who is out there and can NU land them. Locally NU seems to have expressed some interest in Glenbrook North guard Alex Dragicevich (class of 2010) and Brooks College Prep guard George Marshall (class of 2011). However, the guy the Wildcats really seem to be going hard after, including extension of a scholarship offer, is Josh Gasser (class of 2010) of Port Washington, Wisconsin. Gasser is 6-4 and seems to offer the ability to be more of a combo guard than the 6-6 Dragicevich who is really an off-guard or the 5-11 Marshall who plays just the point. One advantage Northwestern has in recruiting Gasser is that NU is the only BCS-conference school to offer. The negative is that fact Gasser has been in possession of the offer from NU for sometime and has yet to the pull the trigger to commit. Personally, I don’t think it is such a bad idea for a kid to weigh his options, but I do understand why it worries NU fans who might think what Gasser is really doing is waiting for an offer from a program with a stronger history of success. If I were Bill Carmody, I would strongly stress last year’s success to Gasser and point out that NU is in position to make historic gains. No other program recruiting him is in such a position.

If Gassner doesn’t commit, Marshall seems very interested in NU. He attended NU’s team camp and drew the attention of NU’s coaches. He is regarded as a point guard who can shoot and that always helps in NU’s Princeton Offense. He also seems to have a good relationship with Tavaras Hardy who has been NU’s lead-recruiter since his arrival on Coach Carmody’s staff. If he gets an offer, I believe Marshall would commit to NU, but the current lack of an offer makes it seem as if NU’s staff would rather have Gasser and might wait to offer Marshall until Gasser decides. Personally, I hope that is not the case. If both can play, and both want to play for the Wildcats, then I would be happy to have both. Yes, the class of 2010 needs at least one big man as Kevin Coble will graduate at the end of the 2009-2010 season, but the fact is NU could have a two guard-one big man class and still be in position to have a strong front court with John Shurna, Davide Curletti, Kyle Rowley, and Luka Mirkovic all juniors in 2010-11. That said, although it seems NU’s current focus is on guards, I suspect Northwestern will add a big man for the class of 2010. What I suspect is that NU will look for a big man who has a strong senior year like they did when they signed Luka Mirkovic in the spring of 2008. Whatever the case, the recruiting season has a long way to go and I would not panic about NU’s situation yet, though, I hope Gasser commits soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pat Fitzgerald, College Football Hall of Famer

I want to take today to congratulate NU football coach Pat Fitzgerald of his induction to the College Football Hall of Fame. This is a great honor for Fitzgerald and for Northwestern. Fitzgerald’s induction is also a great chance for people to remember one of the greatest seasons in the history of college football. It is amazing to me that more football historians do not spend more time talking about Northwestern’s 1995 season when discussing college football history. What Gary Barnett did in turning around Northwestern’s program that season was amazing and Fitz was without a doubt the leader of that squad. The honor of induction into the College Football Hall of Fame is well deserved for Fitz and I hope for some of those who attended the ceremony from other schools that it served to educate them about just how good Fitz was and how remarkable the accomplishments of him, his teammates, and coaches truly were. Perhaps even more impressive, I think Coach Fitz is well on his way to accomplishing even more great feats for Northwestern, this time as a coach. Someday, he might even find himself deserving another ceremony as a Hall of Fame inductee for his efforts as NU’s head coach.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Records of '31

The quest to get Northwestern to recognize Coach Lonborg’s 1931 National Champions continues today with a post dedicated to the records set that season. I also want to say that as this weekend is historic for NU athletics with football coach Pat Fitzgerald getting inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame, there is no better time to think about the significance of all aspects NU’s athletic history. Fans as you gather with fellow NU fans in South Bend, or anywhere else, let them know about our forgotten National Champs and encourage them to sign the petition and help bring awareness to the efforts of Riel, Reiff, Lonborg, and the ‘Cats.

The first record the Wildcats set was most consecutive victories. NU won 12 straight games to start the season that year and 13 straight games if you include the last game from the year before. NU also set a record in 1931 for most consecutive road wins with 7 straight wins away from home. Overall, Northwestern won 16 games which is tied for the third most single-season wins in school history with the 2001-2002 Wildcats. NU’s winning percentage in 1931 is also a school record with a percentage of .941. Those are all significant achievements and when you factor in the Big Ten Title (NU’s first) and Joseph Reiff’s All-American honor (also NU’s first), 1931 becomes by far the most decorated and historically significant year in Northwestern basketball history. With this fact in mind I once again urge Jim Phillips and his staff at NU’s athletic department to recognize the National Championship awarded to the 1931 Wildcats by hanging a banner in Welsh-Ryan Arena. Finally, while some might say commemorating accomplishments almost 80 years old is silly as they are insignificant to today’s team. I say that history is never insignificant. As the banner is raised to the rafters, Wildcats fans would realize that Northwestern accomplished the ultimate goal in college basketball once before and will without a doubt do so again.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Other Members of the 1931 Championship Squad

Finding statistical data from 1931 has not been easy task, but I was able to learn a little more about the athletes who played alongside Joseph Reiff as the ‘Cats went 16-1 from the Biographical Dictionary of American Sports. Coach Dutch Lonborg’s team was characterized by large athletic players. The 6-3 Reiff at center was the primary scorer for the ‘Cats leading the team with 123 points in 12 league games. That average of just over 10 ppg was enough to lead the league in scoring. Alongside Reiff in the front court for the ‘Cats were forwards Robert McCarnes and Bert Riel. Both men were also known for their size and athletic skill. Riel served as the team captain. In the backcourt the Wildcats featured guards Frank Marshall and Arthur Smith. With that squad the Wildcats were able to beat Notre Dame twice (always a nice thing to do), the University of Alabama (which must have taken a long train trip), and Bradley University. The Wildcats also won 11 of the team’s 12 league games. Those wins, according to the Helms Foundation, were enough to rate the Wildcats National Champs. So, I again ask Northwestern’s Athletic Department to acknowledge that accomplishment and recognize the efforts of Riel, Reiff, and their teammates.

I want to thank poster streamsofwhiskey who is this thread posted pictures of the banner’s Kansas and North Carolina have for their Helms Foundation National Champs. Also, I want to think everyone who so far has voted in the poll or signed the petition. It is great to see some names I recognize from both my time at NU and my home town on the list. Now, let’s all encourage our follow alums and NU supports who have not signed to do so. 10,000 signatures might be a little to lofty of a goal, but I’d like to get 500 or 1,000 before I send it along to NU.

News and Notes:
NU's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game vs NC State will be on ESPNU. Here's hoping that Comcast and ESPN finish their deal to get ESPNU onto Comcast systems by that time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Closer Look at 1931 Most Outstanding Player Joseph Reiff

Along with naming Northwestern the 1931 National Champions, the Helms Foundation also named 6 foot 3 inch Wildcat center Joseph Reiff the Most Outstanding Player for the 1931 season. On a Wildcat team which featured a number of talented players, Reiff was the star. He picked up not only the MOP award from the Helms Foundation, but also was named a first team All-American. Reiff’s All-American award during that 1931 campaign was the first ever earned by a Wildcat. While earning that All-American award, Reiff led the Big Ten in scoring. Amazingly he was just a sophomore at the time.

In 1932 Reiff and the Wildcats finished second in the Big Ten to Helms Foundation National Champ Purdue. Reiff finished second in the league in scoring and was named a third-team All-American. That might have been something of a disappointment, as it was certainly a step back from that national title caliber team from the year before, but Reiff and Wildcats rebounded the next season to capture their second Big Ten Title. Again, Reiff led the Wildcats and the Big Ten in scoring. In fact, he set what was at the time a Big Ten record by scoring 168 points (14.0 PPG) in Big Ten play. Obviously, the offense flow of basketball was a little different in the early 1930s, but I say again that doesn’t change the significance of what was accomplishment. Reiff’s teammate Elmer Johnson finished second in the league in scoring. For his efforts, Reiff earned his second first team All-American honor in 1933 making him the first and second Wildcat All-American. Overall the Wildcats were 15-4 in that season.

That Big Ten Title Reiff led the ‘Cats to in 1933 is also the last time Northwestern won a Big Ten Title in Basketball. In fact, Northwestern has only had 17 winning seasons since 1933, which as others have said, is a strong reason to positively promote the successes the program has had during its history. Reiff himself has earned recognition from the Helms Foundation Basketball Hall of Fame to which he was elected to in 1972. Northwestern also recognized Reiff by naming him a charter member of its athletic Hall of Fame in 1984. That hall of fame induction wasn’t Reiff’s only legacy at NU. His grandson Joe Reiff played football at Northwestern and helped lead the Wildcat defense which carried the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl in 1995 and the Citrus Bowl in 1996.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Closer Look at Coach Dutch Lonborg

Coach Arthur "Dutch" Lonborg won 237 games at NU

Gardner, Illinois is located about an hour south of Chicago along I-55. I’ve stopped there more than a few times to visit a gas station as I’ve driven along I-55, but until recently I never knew Gardner was home to one of Northwestern’s most famous basketball coaches. Arthur “Dutch” Lonborg was raised in Gardner before moving on to attend the University of Kansas. At Kansas, Lonborg played for Coach Phog Allen. Any basketball fan will recognize that name as the arena named after Allen is now one of the most famous sites in college hoops. Lonborg would later make a major impact on KU himself as the school’s athletic director, he held the job from 1950-63, but his greatest coaching success came at Northwestern where he won 237 games and the 1931 Helms Foundation National Title.

Looking Lonborg’s record and career history, it quickly becomes clear he was one of the most respected basketball coaches of his era and his success at Northwestern was primarily the reason. Although he coached at three different schools (McPherson College, Washburn College, and NU), Lonborg recorded 73.3% of his career wins at NU. Aside from the National Title and Big Ten Title in 1931, Lonborg also led NU to the Big Ten Title in 1933 and second place finishes in 1932 and 1934. He is also Northwestern’s longest tenured head basketball coach coaching NU from the 1927-28 season until 1949-50.

Aside from coaching NU to those two Big Ten Titles, Lonborg also coached and helped develop three NU legends. The captain of Lonborg’s first team was Waldo Fisher, who not only played hoops, but was an end on NU’s first Big Ten Champion football team. Even more impressive, after finishing school, Fisher spent 50 years working at Northwestern. He retired in 1974 as an assistant athletic director and is honored today as NU’s half of the Waldo Fisher-Frank McGrath Award which goes to the MVP of Northwestern’s yearly matchup with DePaul. If the truest measure of a coach is the young men they develop, Lonborg did very well with Mr. Fisher, but he wasn’t the only key figure in Wildcat history coached by Dutch.

In 1938-39 another multi-sport star played for Lonborg. This time it was a football lineman by the name of Robert “Bob” Voigts. Voigts, of course, would go on to coach Northwestern’s football program to a Rose Bowl Victory a decade later.

Last, but certainly not least, Lonborg also coached a multi-sport All-American named Otto Graham. Graham captained a 1943-44 Wildcat team which went 12-7 overall and finished 4th in the Big Ten. That record was the best record NU posted in the decade of the 1940s and no doubt the combination of Lonborg’s coaching and All-American forward Graham’s athletic skill contributed to that success.

While at NU Lonborg served as president of the National Basketball Coaches Association in 1935. After leaving NU, Lonborg continued to be an active player in helping shape the world of college basketball as he became chairman of the NCAA Tournament Committee. Later on, he was an administrator for the 1960 U.S. Olympic team.

In 1990 Lonborg was elected to the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame. Now, I call on Northwestern to add to Dutch Lonborg’s legacy by hanging a banner in Welsh-Ryan Arena commemorating his 1931 Championship squad.

Sign 1931 Champs Petition

I’ve decided to dive head first into a quest to get Northwestern to acknowledge Coach Dutch Longborg’s 1931 Helms Foundation National Champs. I believe this is a significant accomplishment in Northwestern basketball history and believe the university should take the necessary steps to acknowledge the historic nature of that accomplishment. In that spirit I’ve started an on-line petition which I encourage everyone to sign at

Aside from the petition, I will in the next few days take a closer look at Coach Lonborg and pivot man Joseph Reiff who the Helms Foundation named 1931's Most Outstanding Player.

Northwestern Basketball: 1931 National Champs!

Reading this morning I ran across this thread which included a link to the list of Helms Foundation Basketball National Champions. The list revealed Northwestern won the 1931 National Championship with a record of 16-1. Now, it should be noted no tournament was played in 1931, nor actually did the Helms Foundation team of experts vote the Wildcats national champs until 1939. However, other schools claim the National Titles that the Helms Foundation retroactively awarded. Purdue for example lists their 1932 team as NCAA Champs in their media guide based on the Helms foundation vote. In the thread linked above, poster NUWildcats writes some great thoughts which I agree with strongly. The fact that Northwestern doesn’t list this team as a National Champion when other schools who won titles under the same circumstances do so is perplexing. Yes, I know some people might laugh at a national title which is awarded almost 80 years later, but as I wrote yesterday, we should acknowledge our school’s past successes no matter when they occurred. Also, the fact is the title was awarded in 1939, Northwestern just needs to take the steps to acknowledge the correctness of that vote.

Now, I don’t know if any members of the 1931 team would be able to attend a ceremony in which a banner was raised at Welsh-Ryan, but I’m sure their families would very much appreciate the acknowledgment of the effort and accomplishments put fourth by their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Also, as a Northwestern fan I would be proud to see Northwestern recognize what is a historical high for the program. Yes, it is tremendously embarrassing that Northwestern has never been to the NCAA Tournament and some might bring that up as we honored our long lost National Champs, but true sports fans would understand and appreciate the significance of an accurate historical record. Speaking of that record, here is the full list of Helms Foundation National Champs. You can see Coach Dutch Lonborg’s Wildcats listed as champs in 1931.

Yesterday, Northwestern changed a football record from 1903 to award that Wildcat team 10 wins. If that record can be changed, the National Title awarded Lonborg’s team can be acknowledged in Northwestern’s basketball media materials and inside Welsh-Ryan Arena. So, I ask NU fans and staff members to consider the possibility that the 2009-2010 season Northwestern can not only make its first NCAA Tournament appearance, but add a national title—perhaps, if we really want to dream, even two.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pre-1990s NU Success

Program Cover from NU's 21-0 win over Ohio State in 1958

So far the Northwestern memorabilia I’ve posted this summer has been from the 1990s onward. This is due to the fact that I started following the team and became aware of the world of sports about that time period. However, the fact is a lot of Northwestern sports history came before that time. Certainly the world of NU athletics changed in 1995 when Gary Barnett led the ‘Cats to the Rose Bowl, but NU actually had some decent football before 1995. Unfortunately, from 1972-1994 Northwestern’s football program struggled so much that it managed to wipe the memories of successes under coaches such as Bob Voigts and Ara Parseghian from the minds of many sports fans. Even as NU rebounded under Barnett, many writers only made passing mentions of the program’s success before the beginning of the dark ages in 1972.

Today, thanks to a reader who found several old pieces of NU memorabilia while cleaning out an old office at NU, I want to look back at some artifacts which can remind us of the success the Wildcats had in the late 1950s under Ara Parseghian. These memorabilia items were put together to make posters at some point as can be seen below. Sadly, the reader who sent me these items is not sure when this occurred. Considering these posters commemorate big wins, though, I suppose they could have been created in effort to promote NU football. Some of the wins NU posted during the 1958 and 1959 would probably have to rank on any list of NU’s greatest wins. For example, led by tailback Ron Burton the Wildcats destroyed #2 Oklahoma 45-13 in the 1959 season opener. After the win over OU, NU actually moved up as high as #2 in the polls and held that rank when they beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame 30-24. Unfortunately, NU couldn’t hold that rank when they lost the final three games of the 1959 season to finish at 6-3. Still, we should remember the great moments and great players from years past at Northwestern.

Program Cover from NU's win over Michigan in 1958

Northwestern beat both Oklahoma and Notre Dame in 1959

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shurna and Team USA win Gold at FIBA U-19

John Shurna posted three rebounds in an 88-80 win over Greece as the United States won the Gold Medal in New Zealand at FIBA's U-19 tournament.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Reminder on CIC Tickets

I got a reminder from a friend today and want to pass it along. At lunch today my friend reminded me tickets for the Chicago Invitational Challenge game between Northwestern and Notre Dame are currently available. You have to order through the Sears Center or Ticket Master, but you can order the tickets now as opposed to waiting for Northwestern to start offering tickets. While the odds are plenty of seats will be available for this event, I decided today I wanted to order tickets now just to make sure I got the best seats possible. The last thing we want is for all our friends from South Bend to grab all the seats at center court. So, whether you order them now or later, let’s paint the Sears Center purple and show support for our Wildcats on the short road trip to Hoffman Estates.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Memorabilia: Schedule Cards

One piece of memorabilia which I’ve always found interesting are the schedule cards schools produce to let fans know the schedule for the upcoming year. In some ways I think these are the most important documents produced each year by a school. It is these cards which allow longtime fans to make plans for season attendance and they are the document you can pass out at restaurants, bars, parades, and other community events to let potential fans know when your team is going to be playing at home. Given this fact, I think producing schedule cards which draw the attention of fans is very important. I also think, as can be seen below, that putting information about the promotions going on during the season is a great idea. This is possible now that NU has actually moved away from producing the traditional cardboard schedule cards of years past and now produces small three-fold pamphlet like schedule cards. This to me is a great improvement as you can get those promotions on the card for potential fans to read about. Also, you can also show more pictures which can catch the eye of someone who picks up the card as the wait for a table at bars or restaurants.

Without a doubt, pictures can catch a person’s eye. So, the question becomes what pictures would best catch people’s eyes for future Northwestern basketball schedule cards. Well, the idea to promote a team’s best players is certainly a strong idea. I loved the fact last year that NU’s schedule card included not just senior Craig Moore, but also star sophomore Michael Thompson. This year I’d like to see Kevin Coble join Thompson on NU’s schedule cards and posters. Promoting star players is one of the most important things to do in schedule cards and posters to lure potential fans. People love to watch stars play and to follow teams with stars. In the case of Northwestern, the man to promote is probably Coble. While Thompson has had some great games, after what Coble did last year against Michigan State, there are probably a lot more basketball fans in the Chicago area (and hopefully around the nation) that recognize his name. Putting him on schedule card might get some basketball fans to come to NU games to see him play, even if they aren’t big Northwestern fans. This could become even more useful if Coble starts the year with a few early season games like the one he had in East Lansing.

Below, you can seen that in the early 1990s NU made an effort to promote the team by putting star center Kevin Rankin on the front of their schedule cards for a few years. A really like the 91-92 card as it shows an eye-catching action shot. Looking forward to this year, I’d love to see similar shots of Coble and Thompson. The 92-93 card, which was e-mailed to me by reader Jon Solomon (who is also the editor of Princeton which you should all check out at was eye-catching in another way. NU changed from the traditional photo to a purpleish color scheme. This certainly helps the card jump out at the eye, but I wish Rankin were doing something more interesting than shooting a free throw. The 95-96 card is similar in that it has a really cool Northwestern Wildcats logo along the side, but then the picture of the team huddled isn’t that exciting. If you want someone to pick up a card that is sitting at the entrance of a restaurant or keep something given to them at a community parade, you need catch the person’s eye. This is even more important now that NU is putting the season’s promotions on the back of the schedule cards. Looking at the cards with Rankin, NU also probably missed the boat by not saying who he was next to his picture. The NU staff did a great thing in recent years when they started putting players names next to their pictures on posters and schedule cards. As much as I'd like to think so, I don't think many non-NU fans can name many NU players on sight.

If I were asked, I’d love for this year’s card to be similar in design to last year’s, but get a picture of a Coble dunk and Thompson releasing a floater instead of simply dribbling or shooting a free throw. Also, keep the information on promotions as they can give people a reason to come out to Welsh-Ryan. After all, most sports fans love giveaway days, and the first giveaway should be a schedule card so people know when to come back.

Last year's card had a list of promotions next to the list of games (a great idea!)
1992-93 card with Kevin Rankin (again, thanks to Jon for this card)
1991-92 card with Kevin Rankin
1995-96 card, note the cool logo on the side

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Uniform Poll Result Analysis

It might be a little silly to devote time to analyzing a poll about what uniforms fans prefer a college football team to wear, but as I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the subject, I think it’s worth devoting just a little more. It should probably be noted that this poll might be somewhat lacking in validity thanks to the fact I only got 26 responses. Obviously, this is just a fraction of the NU fan base. Nonetheless, I think the results say something very interesting. Northwestern fans have debated the football uniform issue since 2003 when NU changed from the Gary Barnett era black uniforms to the school color purple uniforms they now wear. To be honest, I thought the majority of fans still longed for the black jerseys as they represent multiple Big Ten Titles to those who cheered the ‘Cats in the mid-90s and 2000. However, as I spoke to people who attended NU in recent years, I realized they either have no recollection of the black jerseys or associate them with poor years in 2001 and 2002. To those who recently became NU fans, it probably seems odd to think of NU buying into the black uniform fad which took place in the 1990s. Personally, I don’t know if NU really bought into the fad. Gary Barnett credited his son, Clay, with the uniform design, and they were very similar to the uniforms worn by Barnett’s pervious employer, the University of Colorado.

I don’t really know what prompted the change in uniform color before the 2003 season. I know Randy Walker did mention at times that purple was the school color and he thought the uniform should represent that color. Pat Fitzgerald has said similar things in recent years as well. Some might disagree, but the fan vote is almost evenly split. Seeing that almost even split has moved me somewhat more strongly into the purple uniform camp. I would like to see NU wear the black Rose Bowl-style uniforms for a throwback day once a year, but I’m starting to see why people like the new purple jerseys. The newer jerseys clearly represent the school as they are the school color, they have very clear numbers (which hasn’t always been the case at NU), and NU has been to 4 bowl games (including the 1948 Rose Bowl) when wearing purple home jerseys. If NU is to continue wearing purple, though, I would like to see the Northwestern strips replace the USC-style shoulder strips and I really hope Coach Fitz sticks with the white pants at home. I really didn’t like the all-purple look.

Shurna Update from

Here's a link to an update on John Shurna who posted 9 points in today's team USA win from

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shurna Update

John Shurna's shot was a bit off (0-of-5) in the USA's 82-61 win over Puerto Rico, but Shurna did grab 7 rebounds in just 12 minutes of play. It's nice to see that John is really attacking the glass.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 8th is Second NU Day on BTN, What Else Could They Show?

On July 8th Big Ten Network will the 2005 contest in which Michael Jenkins hit the game winner for NU, but what else could they show for NU fans?

The Big Ten Network will air 24 hours of Northwestern programming on July 8th. Unfortunately, many of these games are repeats of games which the Big Ten Network aired as part of its NU day in June. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the 1995 Penn State football game and this NU does include the Michael Jenkins game. However, most of the games are games the BTN has run multiple times. Given that, I want to do today is offer the Big Ten Network my list of classic NU games they need to find and show. I’ve tried to list only games which I know were on television, but if you have other suggestions please post below. It is my honest hope someone from the BTN will see this list and at least inquire to ESPN or whatever the original broadcast network was into the possibility of getting video of these games.

1992 Basketball vs Illinois: Cedric Neloms hit a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to beat the Illini and end Northwestern’s 29-game conference losing streak.

1993 football vs Boston College: The Wildcats get revenge for a devastating loss the year before by beating the nationally ranked Eagles 22-21 on a late two point conversion.

1994 basketball vs Michigan: This to me this is the game the folks at the BTN need to go the extra mile to locate. The Wildcats end a wild season by beating #8 Michigan 97-93 in overtime to clinch an NIT bid.

1994 basketball vs DePaul (NIT): The Wildcats grab their first postseason victory in more than a decade by beating local rival DePaul in the NIT opener at Welsh-Ryan.

1995 football vs Notre Dame: Probably second on the must locate list. The Wildcats upset the Irish 17-15 and start the most amazing season in the history of college football.

1995 football vs Purdue: Yeah, I know there are great games in between ND and this contest, but the BTN does have the Penn State game so I’m giving them a pass. This game was the clincher, NU won the Big Ten Title with the 23-8 victory over the Boilers. It would also be essential to include all post game interviews with Barnett and the players in this rebroadcast to fully appreciate the magnitude of NU winning a Big Ten Title.

1996 football vs Wisconsin: You’ve seen the 2000 Michigan game with the Anthony Thomas fumble on the Big Ten Network several times, right? This is the original version of that game. Ron Dayne fumbles and the ‘Cats eek out a 34-30 victory on a pass from Schnur to Bates.

1996 football vs Michigan: Down 16-0 at the start of the 4th quarter the Wildcats beat the Wolverines 17-16 on Brian Gowins’s field goal(s).

1997 football vs Michigan State: Anwan Jones blocks a field goal and NU holds of the Spartans by two. (This game actually did air on ESPN Classic last fall before NU played Michigan State)

2002 basketball vs Michigan State: Before last year’s win in East Lansing this was the last time the Wildcats beat the Spartans.

2003 football vs Wisconsin and Penn State: On two cold Saturdays in the fall the Wildcats battle the weather for two key Big Ten wins on their way to an appearance in the Motor City Bowl.

2004 basketball vs Iowa: Vedran Vukusic beats the buzzer and the Hawkeyes the year before Michael Jenkins does the same.

2005 football vs Iowa: The last 3:21 of the game sees NU score twice and beat the Hawkeyes 28-27.

2006 football at Iowa: Beating Iowa is always fun and in this contest NU gets its biggest win in Pat Fitzgerald’s first season.

2007 football vs Minnesota: A double overtime thriller which ends when the struggling Wildcat defense holds off a Gopher two-point conversion try.

Friday, July 3, 2009

John Shurna with 13 points in game 3 for USA

In the USA's 112-55 win over Egypt today in New Zealand John Shurna posted 13 points and 6 rebounds. Shurna it should also be noted is now a starter for team USA. The US is 3-0 so far in the tournament.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Foul Trouble for Shurna, No PT for Rowley

Game two in New Zealand didn't go as well for John Shurna as game one. He picked up three quick fouls and only played 8 minutes in the USA's 71-55 win over France. Shurna did have a blocked shot and a rebound in those 8 minutes.

Trinidad and Tobago also played today in their tournament, however, Kyle Rowley did not play in the 86-82 win over the Bahamas. While I wish Rowley were playing, I still thinking playing in this tournament is better for him than playing in a summer league with no coaches or drills.

Finally, I want again remind everyone of the fine documentary on former NU Head Coach Ricky Byrdsong produced by a team of Medill students. Coach Byrd might not have been as successful a basketball coach as he wanted while at NU, but he was a great person and on this 10th anniversary of his death, I think we should all take time to remember the positive ideals represented. Here is a link to the documentary:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Recruiting News Different for Men and Women

News reports today featured recruiting information on both Northwestern basketball programs. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t good for both. While NU Women’s coach Joe McKeown scored another impressive addition to his squad by reportedly securing a commit from Tailor Jones who is transferring from Florida, NU’s men’s team failed to secure a commitment from guard Ben Brust of Mundelein, IL. Brust will instead attend Iowa along with his close friend Cully Payne of Schaumburg who earlier this year committed to the Hawkeyes. The Wildcats now have to be focused on Glenbrook North guard Alex Dragevich to fill the need for which they tried to recuirt Brust and New Trier’s Alex Rossi. Many reports say Dragevich is actually the best of the trio, so perhaps NU will win out in the end. For McKeown's sqaud, Jones is another wing player who can run the court and handle the ball. She is also the older sister of one of the best class of 2011 players in the nation. So perhaps the best thing about Tailor coming to NU is that her sister, Morgan, might very well be close behind.

News and Notes:
John Shurna posted a double-double 11 points and 10 rebounds (5 offensive) as Team USA beat Iran in FIBA's U-19 Tournament.

Northwestern football also landed a recruit in the form of 6-7 275 lbs. lineman Paul Jorgensen.

Kyle Rowley has 7 points and 5 rebounds for Trinidad and Tobago in 2 games in the Caribbean Basketball Championship.