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Northwestern Wildcats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Northwestern Wildcats
UniversityNorthwestern University
ConferenceBig Ten
NCAADivision I/FBS
Athletic directorJames J. Phillips
LocationEvanston, Illinois
Varsity teams20 (8 men’s and 12 women’s)
Football stadiumRyan Field
Basketball arenaWelsh-Ryan Arena
Baseball stadiumRocky Miller Park
Soccer stadiumMartin Stadium
MascotWillie the Wildcat
Fight songGo U Northwestern
ColorsPurple and White[1]

Big Ten logo in Northwestern's colors.
Big Ten logo in Northwestern's colors.

The Northwestern Wildcats are the athletic teams that represent Northwestern University, located in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference and the only private university in the conference. Northwestern has eight men's and eleven women's NCAA Division I sports teams. The mascot is Willie the Wildcat. The athletic director is former Northern Illinois University Athletic Director Jim Phillips, who took office in April 2008.


Northwestern is a charter member of the Big Ten Conference. Ever since the University of Chicago dropped out in 1946, Northwestern has been the only private institution in the conference. At only 8,200 undergraduates, it is by far the smallest. The second-smallest school, Iowa, is almost three times as large as Northwestern, at 21,000 undergraduates.

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 football, men's soccer, wrestling, men's swimming, men's golf, women's tennis, softball, fencing and women's lacrosse. The women's lacrosse team is the six-time NCAA national champion, and went undefeated in 2005.[3][4] The 1930–31 Wildcats were retroactively named national champions by both the Helms Athletic Foundation (in 1942) and the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.[5][6]

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 47,000 seat football stadium
Ryan Field, Northwestern's 47,000 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 Ten schools during the 1995 season.[7][8][9] 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.[10] In August 2001, Rashidi Wheeler, a senior safety, collapsed and died during practice from an asthma attack.[11][12] 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.[13][14] In 2006, the Northwestern women's soccer team was suspended and coach Jenny Haigh resigned following the release of images of alleged hazing.[15][16]

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."[17] 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.[18]


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.
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!"

Northwestern Wildside is the official student section of Northwestern athletics. They are led in their gameday cheers by the Wildside leaders and Northwestern University cheerleaders, who perform on the sidelines during all home games and accompany the football team to all away games. The 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.

Sports sponsored

Men's sports Women's sports
Baseball Basketball
Basketball Cross country
Football Fencing
Golf Field hockey
Soccer Golf
Swimming & diving Lacrosse
Tennis Soccer
Wrestling Softball
Swimming & diving
† – Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor.


The Northwestern University football team has evidence of organization in 1876. Northwestern achieved an all-time high rank of No. 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 mediocrity: Its all-time record is 468–614–44 (.435) and until July 2012, the program held the official record for Division I-A losses.[19][20] Other dubious distinctions include being on the losing end of the greatest comeback in Division I-A history[21] and holding the record for the longest losing streak in Division I-A – 34 consecutive games between 1979 and 1982.[22][23]

Until 2013, the Wildcats had been to nine bowl games since 1995 – 1996 Rose Bowl, 1997 Citrus Bowl, 2000 Alamo Bowl, 2003 Motor City Bowl, 2005 Sun Bowl, 2008 Alamo Bowl, the 2010 Outback Bowl, the 2011 TicketCity Bowl and 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas—but had not won a postseason contest since the 1949 Rose Bowl until the 2013 Gator Bowl.[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]


Wildcats blimpcam at Welsh-Ryan Arena (2012-02-21)
Wildcats blimpcam at Welsh-Ryan Arena (2012-02-21)

The men's basketball team did not earn a bid to the NCAA tournament until 2017. Its last conference championship came in 1933, when it tied with Ohio State. The 1931 team was retro-picked as national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation and, later, by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.[5] The Wildcats have played in the National Invitation Tournament seven times, most recently in 2012. The team plays its home games in Welsh-Ryan Arena, where it is cheered on by the Wildside student section. The head coach is former Duke Associate Head Coach Chris Collins; he succeeds Bill Carmody. Under Carmody, a former head coach at Princeton, the team ran the Princeton offense.

Northwestern was the only school from a Power Five conference, and one of the few long-standing members of Division I, to have never played in the NCAA Tournament. In 2017, the painful wait for the NCAA championship finally ended, when the Wildcats earned a tournament berth. They won their first found matchup against Vanderbilt University, but lost to number one seed Gonzaga in the second round.[28]

The women's team has made appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, and 2015.

Women's lacrosse

Northwestern has won the national championship in women's lacrosse five straight times, from 2005 to 2009, and then again in 2011 and 2012, giving them 7 championships in 8 years. 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."[29] The 2009 season also was an undefeated run. In their five championship seasons, the Wildcats have a 106–3 record.[30]

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.[31] Midfielder Hannah Nielsen received the award in 2008 and 2009, the second player to be a two-time winner.[32][33] Northwestern's Shannon Smith won the award in 2011.[34]


The Northwestern University Wildcats men's wrestling team competes in the NCAA Division I and belong to the Big Ten Conference. Tournaments and home matches are hosted in the Welsh-Ryan Arena. The wrestling facilities are named in honor of Ken Kraft, for his 48 years of involvement with the Northwestern wrestling program. Kraft was a four-year member of the Wildcat wrestling squad and NU's head coach for 22 years. In 2004, Kraft retired after spending 51 years at NU as an athlete, coach and administrator.[35] Drew Pariano is the current head coach for the Wildcats succeeding his college coach, Tim Cysewski, in 2010. Pariano has coached 11 NCAA All-Americans while at Northwestern and 3 NCAA Champions: Dustin Fox at Heavyweight in 2008, Jake Herbert at 184 lbs. in 2007 & 2009 and Jason Tsirtsis at 149 lbs. in 2014. Jake Herbert was also a three-time Big Ten Conference champion, and four-time NCAA All-American. He went 149–4 while at Northwestern University and won both the 2009 Dan Hodge Trophy, awarded to the best college wrestler in the nation, and the 2009 Big Ten Athlete of the Year award.[36]


The men's golf team has won eight Big Ten Conference championships: 1925, 1937, 1939, 1948, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006. They have twice placed second in the NCAA Championships: 1939, 1945.

Luke Donald won the NCAA Individual Championship in 1999. He was Big Ten Conference Player of the year in 1999, and David Merkow was named the same in 2006.[37] Donald was ranked number 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for 56 weeks in 2011 and 2012. The four best career stroke averages in school history are held by Luke Donald, Tom Johnson, Jess Daley, and David Lipsky.[38]

In 1946 and 1957, Phyllis Otto and Mariam Bailey, respectively, won the women's individual intercollegiate golf championship (an event conducted by the Division of Girls' and Women's Sports (DGWS) — which later evolved into the current NCAA women's golf championship).


The Northwestern Wildcats men's and women's soccer teams both use the 20,000-capacity Toyota Park for their home games for the 2015 season due to construction of the Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium on the Lakeside Complex. The field is a part of a $250 million athletics upgrade on the lakefront.


The Wildcats program began in 1976 and has amassed 5 Big Ten championships, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, and 5 appearances in the Women's college World series- including 2007 and their national runner-up performance 2006.


In the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships held from 1924 through 1936, no team points were officially awarded.[39] Northwestern won four unofficial national team championships during these years, which were proclaimed in the newspapers of the time, second only to Michigan's seven.[40]

  • 1924 – Northwestern
  • 1929 – Northwestern[41]
  • 1930 – Northwestern[42][43]
  • 1933 – Northwestern[44][45]

Matt Grevers, a Northwestern alum, won two gold medals (100-meter backstroke, 400-meter medley relay) and a silver medal (400-meter freestyle relay) at the 2012 London Olympic Games.


Seymour Greenberg, later ranked US No. 5 in singles in 1943 and 1944, was captain of the Northwestern University tennis team and became the school's first Big Ten Conference singles champion when he won the title in 1940. He repeated in 1941 and won the Big Ten doubles championships in 1940 (with Jerry Clifford), 1941 (with Gene Richards), and 1942 (also with Richards). Greenberg's three doubles titles still rank first all-time in Big Ten history. He led the Northwestern Wildcats to the Big Ten team championships in 1940 and 1942.[46]

Grant Golden, later a top-10 world player, played collegiate tennis from 1948 to 1951 at Northwestern University, where he was Big Ten Conference singles and doubles champion in 1950, and named an All American.[47] He earned his doubles title with Bill Landin.

In Women's Tennis, Audra Cohen attended Northwestern in the Fall of 2004, and won her first 23 singles matches.[48] She then won the ITA National Singles Title and the ITA Midwest Championships.[48]


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 use of the Tomahawk was acknowledged as offensive to the culture of Native Americans.

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.

National championships

NCAA team championships

Northwestern University has won 8 NCAA national championships:[49]

  • Men's (1)
  • Women's (7)
    • Lacrosse (7): 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012

See also:

Other national team championships

National team titles that were not bestowed by the NCAA (4 are unofficial NCAA championships):

See also:

Notable alumni


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  2. ^ "Northwestern University Facts". Northwestern University. Archived from the original on June 21, 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2008.
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  4. ^ Timanus, Eddie (May 22, 2005). "Northwestern wins lacrosse title in program's fourth year". USA Today.
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  14. ^ "University Examines Use of Supplements". The New York Times. August 13, 2001. Retrieved July 13, 2008.
  15. ^ Sprow, Chris (May 16, 2006). "Northwestern Women's Soccer Team Suspended After Hazing". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Northwestern women's soccer coach resigns". ESPN. June 21, 2006.
  17. ^ Abbey, Wallace (November 16, 1924). "Maroons beat Purple by a Dropkick". Chicago Tribune. pp. A1.
  18. ^ Damer, Roy (April 18, 1972). "Purple Haze Won't Go Away at N.U.". Chicago Tribune.
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  32. ^ " #1 in College Sports".
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  34. ^ "Shannon Smith Wins 2011 Tewaaraton Award as Nation's Top Performer".
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  46. ^ [1]
  47. ^ "Grant Golden" - Chicago Tennis Patrons
  48. ^ a b University of Miami Hurricanes Official Athletic Site
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External links

This page was last edited on 23 September 2019, at 02:21
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