Northwestern to Face Auburn in Outback Bowl



By Paul M. Banks

The Northwestern Wildcats will play the Auburn Tigers on New Year’s Day in Tampa, Florida in a game that will literally be a catfight. Rar Rar Rar! OutbackBowlLogo

So much for my inside tips at the highest levels of the Northwestern athletic program, who told me during the Chicago Invitational Challenge that NU was 80% certain they were headed to the Champs Sports Bowl. And that came from people at the very top. And so much for all those bowl game projections you see on college football sites. Nearly every single one NU in the Champs Sports. Anyways, the Big Ten has not fared well versus the SEC in bowl games lately, but maybe this one will be different.

NU Athletic Director Jim Phillips discussed the bid selection process, and how he told his own unique story about the program to the bowl committees, just like every program does this time of year.

“I know that there’s been some things said, but the facts are the facts. If you look at last year’s travel, if you look at since 1995 how well we’ve done, we’ve just put that in order. Our Athletic Communications department did a great job of putting together a binder with facts, figures and pictures. And to see the purple in the crowd sells a lot. With 158 daily flights to Tampa, and 18,000 alums in the Florida area, those are important things to tell, and it kind of states the case of how well Northwestern travels when they do go to a bowl game…But at the end of the day it’s about the product on the field, the football program and the accomplishments of the kids you’ll hear from later, that’s what got us to Tampa,” Dr. Phillips said.

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald is obviously very excited about the chance to play on New Year’s Day. The last time the Cats did so was back when he was a player, the 1997 Citrus Bowl. The result? well, let’s move on. Any time you get to play in Florida, it’s a golden opportunity to sell your program to the rich talent base of potential recruits to your program. Florida has as much or more high school football talent than anywhere in the country.

“The coaches and I were chuckling, whenever we’re on the road recruiting, I always ask, can we eat at Outback? So they were laughing at me in the staff meeting. To play on January first and against a SEC team is a great challenge and that’s what you want…I was down there last week, and we will be back down there again. We’ll invite every coach in the state of Florida to our practices and have an open door policy like we have here. To have this kind of excitement and momentum for our football program from a recruiting standpoint right now is huge for the future of our program. We’ve got a great class going right now and these last few slots that we have will be critical to putting an exclamation point on the class. So, to have it in a talent rich state like Florida, and in a central location like Tampa gives us a lot of opportunity to have a lot great high school players and coaches experience Northwestern football firsthand.

The greatest thing about this bowl game announcement, a pleasant surprise to many, is that takes all the attention away from that other Northwestern story a lot of people have been talking about this weekend. krissycox

You know, ESPN the magazine (what the Evil Empire still has a print apparatus? why?) “writer” John Zucker publishing a piece on Friday that took a student at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, a Northwestern senior on the cheerleading squad, and quote her in a fashion that makes it seem like she grasps reality about as much as Sarah Palin. Word is that ESPN did some shady things in the story development and editorial process, and perhaps misquoted that NU cheerleader, making her  look bad. As more comes out, I will keep you updated. In fact, I’ll even work on contacting my sources to get more info straight from the primary sources, etc. etc. journalist cliche, cliche. Because “at the end of the day…it is what it is”.  Let’s put things in perspective here, a New Year’s Day bowl game is what’s important now.

Like Dr. Phillips said tonight:

“It’s difficult to come up with another event that brings a University together more than a bowl game. Whether it’s student-athletes, former student athletes, coaches, alums, donors, fans, the greater University, it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Northwestern family to come together. The early reaction by blackberry, email,  it’s gone ballistic with enthusiasm.”

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  1. This is a very, very winnable game for them, as 7-5 Auburn lost 5/6 down the stretch. Yes, they looked good in the Iron Bowl, but I think NU is catching them at the right time.

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