The only nice things I'll say about the Twelve Pack's SB Nation Conference Re-Draft twelfth round pick all week...
School: Northwestern University
Colors: Purple and white
Mascot: Willie the Wildcat
Location: Evanston, Il.
Varsity Sports: 19
Football Stadium: Ryan Field (cap. 47,130)
Basketball Arena: Welsh-Ryan Arena (cap.8,117)
SBN Blog: Sippin' On Purple
On to the vitals:
TV Revenue Potential. Let's be clear. We have no preconceived notions that Northwestern by itself opens up the Chicago TV market. But combined with Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue, Chicago becomes a significant market for the Twelve Pack. That's a lot of alums among those four schools alumni bases, and football games in nearby Evanston will make the conference very relevant in the third largest TV market in the nation.
Academics. According to U.S. News and World Report, Northwestern was ranked 12th in the country this year (and 11th overall by Forbes), making the 'Cats the highest ranked academic school left on the board.
Co-eds. Nope. Not really. Northwestern is affectionately referred to as Nerdwestern for a reason.
Weather/Desirability of Destination. The weather sucks, but Chicago is one of the coolest cities in the country. We'll party in Chicago during the week and then hit up the Purple line to Evanston on game day.
Historic Success. This is probably the reason why NU fell to the Twelve Pack with the last pick of the 12th round. Northwestern football ranks 110th among all Division I-A teams with an overall winning percentage of just .438 (483 up, 625 down, 44 ties). Only Kansas State (12th round, 69th overall), Indiana (10th round, 59th overall) and Wake Forest (undrafted) from BCS AQ conferences have a worse winning percentage all-time. In basketball, NU is infamous for being the only major conference program never to make the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Despite all the historical futility on the gridiron and the hardwood, this was very much a forward-looking pick.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald seems to have the 'Cats on the upswing and he's locked into a long-term deal to stay at his alma mater.
Commissioner: Tell us more about your football and basketball program, in 300 words or less (grad school essay style).
Sippin' On Purple: Lots of bad things happened for long periods of time. As you may know, NU is the losingest FBS football team and the only power conference school never to make the NCAA Tournament in basketball. But the football team has been relevant - three Big Ten Championships since 1995, bowl appearances each of the last three years - and under Pat Fitzgerald, isn't showing signs of slowing. A losing season would be kind of disappointing for NU at this point. And while the basketball team has had trouble breaking through, its inching closer and closer every season, with NIT appearances in each of the last three years after only having been to the consolation tourney three times in the history of the school. We have nothing to be proud of, but we've been an above-average athletic program for the past few years and that doesn't look like it's going to change.
Commish: What is your school's best non-revenue sport? What is that program's defining moment / crowning achievement?
Sippin' On Purple: Women's lacrosse. The team had its first season in 2002, but rose disturbingly quickly, as coach Kelly Amonte Hiller has led the team to six national championships in the last seven years, a true dynasty in the world of women's lax. They're crazy good, going 106-3 over the course of their five straight national championship seasons. Things looked down after losing to Maryland in the final in 2010, but they won 8-7 this year to get back on top.
Commish: What excites you most about joining this conference?
Sippin' On Purple: I'm just excited to get picked. NU is genuinely not a bad athletic program, it's one on the rise, but I figured its historical suckitude might prevent anybody from looking into it. It was pretty embarrassing seeing that schools without a chance at relevance in football or basketball this year - let's say, Indiana - were getting picked above NU.
Commish: If you are in Evanston for a football game, what's the #1 local spot -- bar, restaurant, attraction -- you have to visit before you leave? (Aside: Al's or Mr. Beef?)
Sippin' On Purple: First off, to blow your mind, Rollin' to Go. As good as Al's, right next door, and less pretentious.
Evanston doesn't have anything that spectacular, unless you're a college student like me and then even our crappiest bars are awesome. Stay in Chicago, check out all that cool stuff, and take the purple line on gameday.
Commish: Which conference road trip are you most looking forward to and why?
Sippin' On Purple: Well, aside from the fact that I'm very literally driving to BC this week, Texas, for the simple reason that Austin seems awesome for football.
Commish: Last one. If you could pick one rap song that captures what this conference is all about, what is it?
Sippin' On Purple: "Triumph" by the Wu-Tang Clan, because there's basically 12 of them and because its what this conference intends to do. Also, because I'll pick song that for pretty much any reason.