History: Although a secular school today, Northwestern was founded in 1851 by Chicago Methodists seeking to provide a “sanctified learning” institution for the states of the Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota). Considering that Chicago in 1850 was still a crude outpost – this was an ambitious plan.
In 1853 the founders purchased a 379-acre tract of land on the shore of Lake Michigan 12 miles north of Chicago. After completing its first building in 1855, Northwestern began classes that fall with two faculty members and 10 students. The first graduating class consisted of four students in 1859. During the American Civil War 77 students and staff fought for the Union while 2 students battle for the Confederacy. At the end of the conflict seven were dead. In 1869 they started admitting women "under the same terms and conditions as young men." Evanston resident Rebecca Hoag becomes first female to enroll at Northwestern. In the 1930’s Northwestern and the University of Chicago (at the time a fellow member of the B10) almost merged. Motivated by financial difficulties of the Great Depression, both presidents envisioned the efficiencies that could be achieved by merging the two prestigious schools. That plan was rejected by the Northwestern trustees for a variety of academic and political reasons.
Location: The primary Northwestern campus is located in the Chicago suburb of Evanston while most of the graduate schools are in Chicago. The town of Evanston was named after one of school founders, John Evans. Evans contributed the $1,000 down payment for acreage north of Chicago and assumed responsibility for the mortgage covering the balance. He was among the first to build himself a home on swamp-drained land near the current Alumni Center. In the 1960's, the university changed the shoreline of Evanston by dumping landfill into Lake Michigan to allow more land for campus buildings. The relationship between Evanston and the university has always been a bit strained because Northwestern does not have to EVER pay property taxes, as prescribed in the school charter.
And though it's not necessarily a "college town" it's still a great place to live and visit. Evanston offers a fun downtown, easy access to Chicago, and a nice shoreline. It is easily one of the more desirable and expensive suburbs of Chicago.
Nickname: They call themselves 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 the team was "a wall of purple wildcats”. The name became so popular that university board members made "wildcats" the official nickname a few months later. In 1972 the student body voted to change the official nickname from "Wildcats" to "Purple Haze" but thankfully the new name never really stuck.
Mascot: The official Northwestern Athletics' mascot is Willie the Wildcat - which happens to also be the name of the Kansas State mascot. 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 a fraternity dressed up as him during the Homecoming parade.
Colors/Logo/Helmets: Purple became the official school color in 1892, replacing the previously colors of black and gold. A university committee thought that too many other universities used those colors – and purple was popular with the leading institutions on the east coast. Officially, Northwestern only has one school color: Royal Purple. However, tradition has firmly established white as the unofficial second color. Black has become a prominent feature of their uniforms since the early 1990’s and has enabled Northwestern to sell more wildcat gear in the bookstore.
After wandering through the dark ages of marketing looking to find a decent looking wildcat logo, Northwestern settled on stylized N in 1981 and have not changed it since. The N has become the symbol of the university and has become a strong brand for their athletic program.
I typically associated losing football teams with frequent changing helmets designs (I am looking at you Sparty) -- but Northwestern is the exception. Considering how bad the football team has been over the years, they really have not made that many changes. The N logo has been in place since 1981 and the current purple and black scheme has been in place since 1994.
Fight Song: The Northwestern fight song is called Go U Northwestern. Both the words and music were written by Theodore C. Van Etten, a 1913 alumnus of Northwestern. Van Etten is also credited for organizing their first band in 1911. At the time, the band only performed collegiate songs from other universities. In 1912, as Van Etten and the other band members were performing a song of another college prior to a football game between Northwestern and Indiana in Bloomington, he decided that Northwestern should have a song of its own. Further inspired by the fact that Northwestern beat Indiana that day, Van Etten returned home and began to work on the words and music. Almost 30 years later (1940) Van Etten was made an honorary letterman and member of the N Men's Club for his melodic contribution to the University.
GO U NORTHWESTERN
Go U Northwestern!
Break right through that line.
With our colors flying,
We will cheer you all the time,
U Rah! Rah!
Go! U Northwestern!
Fight for victory,
Spread far the fame of our fair name,
Go! Northwestern win that game.
Go! Northwestern Go!
Go! Northwestern Go!
Hit 'em hard!
Hit 'em low!
Go! Northwestern Go!
Traditions: In addition to the fight song, Northwestern fans have created plenty of chants and cheers to occupy themselves while their team is losing on the field. And they do that ALOT... Northwestern holds the all-time records for Division I-A losses, points allowed, and negative point differential. Something that I know that drives Yost crazy, they jingle their keys before the opening kickoff. Some people have claimed that jingling of keys was to insinuate that the opposing school's graduates would one day be parking the cars of the Northwestern graduates. Another version claims the tradition began in the 1940s when Northwestern students had vehicles, while their land grant school opponents weren't fortunate enough to enjoy such luxuries.
Academics: Northwestern is recognized both nationally and internationally for the quality of its educational programs at all levels. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks the University's undergraduate programs among the best in the country, currently they are ranked as the 12th best National University. This is the best ranking of any of Michigan’s opponents this year, and obviously they are #1 in the Big Ten.
Athletics: A charter member of the Big Ten and the conference's only private institution, Northwestern sponsors 19 intercollegiate athletic teams (8 men's and 11 women's). In 2008 the women's lacrosse team impressively captured its fourth consecutive NCAA championship. In general they do quite well in the country club sports of tennis, golf, and swimming.
In football, they once had the longest losing streak in NCAA Division I-A history at 34 games and have not won a bowl game since sneaking into the 1949 Rose Bowl (they finished 2nd in the conference but went because Michigan went the previous year). When they lost their 34th game and set the new consecutive losses record in 1981 (a 61-14 home loss to MSU) the students rushed the field to "celebrate" and chanted "We're the worst!". They tore down the goalposts and threw them into Lake Michigan. Wow.
Their men's basketball team was recognized as the 1931 National Champion (by the Helms Athletic Foundation) but has never earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, and its last conference championship came in 1933, when they shared the title with Ohio State.
Famous alums: Northwestern totals approximately 190,000 alumni, including a VERY impressive list of leaders in business, government, law, science, education, medicine, media, and the performing arts. Among the notable alumni are baseball's first commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Chicago’s first black Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, NY Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, and Hugh Hefner even attended a graduate sociology course for a semester in between parties at The Playboy Club. They have an Academy Award winning actor in Charlton Heston along with a huge and impressive list of other entertainers which includes Ann-Margret, Warren Beatty, David Schwimmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Springer, and Stephen Colbert. They also produce a lot of journalists, including my 2nd favorite ESPN
hottie reporter, Rachel Nichols.
In business, they produced a ton of CEOs and Founders, including Arthur Anderson and both (Edwin) Booz and (James) Allen. Their lack of football production has translated into an expected lack of star NFL players; their best known NFL players like Mike Adamle and Steve Tasker have made better names for themselves as broadcasters.
Alas, they don’t have any astronauts and make no claim to a US Presidents. However they did produce both Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern, two presidential election losers.
The Game: Who the hell knows what is going to happen ?
I hear that weather is going to be a factor, which is bad for our fumbling Wolverines. Last weekend we got an actual four quarter view of what Michigan Ninja football under Rich Rodriguez can be. Northwestern is wounded at just about every skill position. All logic tells me that we should continue to roll them like we did Minnesota, but so much depends on how our young Ninjas play. I think we can win if Nick Sheridan continues to improve and not try to do too much, and the defense wraps up and tackles. Plus it would be nice for KC Lopata to score another 20 points or so.
Bigasshamm's streak stays alive...