Northwestern Wildcats: Wikis


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Northwestern Wildcats
University Northwestern University
Conference Big Ten
NCAA Division I
Athletics director James J. Phillips
Location Evanston, IL
Varsity teams 19 varsity teams
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



The Northwestern Wildcats are the athletic teams that represent Northwestern University, a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, and is 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 athletics 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." [1] The name was so popular that university board members made "Wildcats" the official nickname just months later.


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.[2] Current successful athletic programs include 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 four-time NCAA national champion, and went undefeated in 2005.[3][4] The men's basketball team is recognized by the Helms Athletic Foundation as the 1931 National Champion.[5]

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." [6] 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.[7]

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.

Ryan Field, Northwestern's 49,000 seat football stadium

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.[8][9][10] 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.[11] In August 2001, Rashidi Williams, a senior safety, collapsed and died during practice from an asthma attack.[12][13] 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.[14][15] In 2006, the Northwestern women's soccer team was suspended and coach Jenny Haigh resigned following the release of images of alleged hazing.[16][17]


The Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band forms the "Sculpted N" and performs "Go U Northwestern!" to close its pregame performance at the 2005 Sun Bowl under the direction of Daniel J. Farris.

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.[18][19] Other dubious distinctions include being on the losing end of the greatest comeback in Division I-A history[20] and holding the record for the longest losing streak in Division I-A, losing 34 consecutive games between 1979 and 1982.[21][22]

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.[23] In 2004, Northwestern broke a 33-year losing streak (46 years at home) by defeating No. 7-ranked Ohio State 33-27.[24]

Following the sudden death of football coach Randy Walker in 2006,[25] 31-year old and former All-American Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald assumed the position becoming the youngest Division I FBS coach at the time.[26][27]

Men's basketball

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 2008–09 season at 17–12.

Women's lacrosse

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."[28] The 2009 season also was an undefeated run. In their five championship seasons, the Wildcats have a 106-3 record.[29]

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.[30] Midfielder Hannah Nielsen received the award in 2008.[31]


Luke Donald, an Englishman who has recently been in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings, attended Northwestern, winning the NCAA title in 1999.


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.


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 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.

Notable alumni


  1. ^ Abbey, Wallace (November 16, 1924). "Maroons beat Purple by a Dropkick". Chicago Tribune. pp. A1.  
  2. ^ "Northwestern University Facts". Northwestern University. Retrieved 2008-08-20.  
  3. ^ Lomonico, David (May 25, 2008). "Northwestern completes four-peat in women's lacrosse". ESPN.  
  4. ^ Timanus, Eddie (May 22, 2005). "Northwestern wins lacrosse title in program's fourth year". USA Today.  
  5. ^ "100 Great Moments in Big Ten Men's Basketball History". Big Ten Official Athletic Site. Retrieved 2009-05-15.  
  6. ^ Abbey, Wallace (November 16, 1924). "Maroons beat Purple by a Dropkick". Chicago Tribune. pp. A1.  
  7. ^ Damer, Roy (April 18, 1972). "Purple Haze Won't Go Away At N.U.". Chicago Tribune.  
  8. ^ "Sentences Issues in Gambling Case". The New York Times. November 25, 1998. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  9. ^ Belluck, Pam (March 27, 1998). "Ex-Northwestern Players Charged in Point-Shaving". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  10. ^ Berkow, Ira (April 20, 1998). "Caught in Gambling's Grip; A Promising Career Unravels at Northwestern". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  11. ^ Dedman, Bill (December 4, 1998). "4 Are Indicted in Northwestern Football Scandal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  12. ^ "College Player Dies at Practice". The New York Times. August 4, 2001. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  13. ^ Fountain, John (August 8, 2001). "Amid Questions, Northwestern Honors a 'Hero'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  14. ^ "Banned Substance in Wheeler's System". The New York Times. August 21, 2001. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  15. ^ "University Examines Use of Supplements". The New York Times. August 13, 2001. Retrieved 2008-07-13.  
  16. ^ Sprow, Chris (May 16, 2006). "Northwestern Women's Soccer Team Suspended After Hazing". The New York Times.  
  17. ^ "Nortwestern women's soccer coach resigns". ESPN. June 21, 2006.  
  18. ^ "Division I-A Losses 1869-2007". College Football Information. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  19. ^ "Northwestern Football History Database". Retrieved 2009-05-02.  
  20. ^ "Michigan State has biggest comeback in Division I-A history in defeat of Northwestern". USA Today. October 21, 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  21. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth (November 9, 1981). "The Streak! Northwestern Sets Football Record, 29 Demoralizing Losses in a Row; Northwestern's Streak". The Washington Post. p. D1.  
  22. ^ Pomerantz, Gary (September 25, 1982). "Northwestern: Paradise Found After 34 Lost Weekends". The Washington Post. p. F1.  
  23. ^ "Taking stock of the early results from football's bowl season". USA Today. January 5, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  24. ^ "Ohio State Turns Purple After Loss to Northwestern". The New York Times. October 4, 2004. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  25. ^ "Randy Walker, Northwestern Head Football Coach, 52, Dies". The New York Times. July 1, 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  26. ^ "Northwestern’s Fitzgerald a Comforting Figure for a Familiar Pain". The New York Times. August 9, 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  27. ^ "Fitzgerald becomes youngest coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.". ESPN. July 8, 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  28. ^ White house flip-flop flap
  29. ^ THREE-PEAT! Northwestern Captures NCAA Title With 15-13 Win Over Virginia :: 'Cats build big lead, hold on in second half for third straight crown
  30. ^ Player Bio: Kristen Kjellman :: Women's Lacrosse
  31. ^ Tewaaraton Trophy Stays in Evanston! Hannah Nielsen Claims 2008 Prize
  32. ^ Sports Illustrated Profile

External links



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