Jim Phillips, CEO of Northwestern’s Athletic Program Part 1

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By Paul M. Banks

In 2008-09, Chicagoans became well aware of how Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, along with team Vice President John McDonough re-branded the Blackhawks from red-headed stepchild to main event on the Second City’s sports stage. Forbes named them the biggest turnaround in sports business history. When you’re a university Athletic Director, you have responsibilities which often come quite close to matching those of a professional franchise owner.  Northwestern’s A.D. Jim Phillips is looking to be the next executive to accomplish such a feat.
“John McDonough is a close friend, I spend a lot of time with him, as well as executives from some of the other pro teams because they know the market,” Phillips said when I visited his office for an extensive interview earlier this year. Phillips went to Wrigley Field for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic, as well as several other Hawks homes games, taking in the buzz surrounding the team. “I wanted to see what they were doing to revitalize the program, and John is the architect of all that.” daleyhawksjeryse1

Phillips articulated what fundamental principles he noticed working effectively, and how he’s implementing them at Northwestern University.

“One is the fan experience; people want to be entertained, as this economy has affected everybody. I can’t control the product on the field, the wins and losses, but I can hopefully control something with the experience. Getting good tickets and finding a place to park can’t be a hassle. We can’t have a hassle at the concession stands. There has to be lots of family friendly things to do before the game, as part of a broader vision of fan experience.

“Second is target-marketing. Surely, it’s a target audience that will make a difference for us, studies have shown. Pricing is also a critical component, we held the line, and in several instances we even decreased even though other teams in the Big Ten increased their prices. Also, certainly the internet has really taken the head over the direct mail. But there’s still a huge area for that contact. When somebody from our office calls you to thank you for being a season ticket holder and asks you, was it a great experience? Did you enjoy yourself? Was it affordable, something you want to again?”

Like Rocky Wirtz, Phillips is a man of the people: greeting everybody in his path, getting involved in the community, talking in-depth with fans and media alike. He gets to know the journalists covering his team, as Phillips knows increasing awareness for his program is an essential component of his innovative marketing style.

“You certainly got to allow people to have access to your team, that’s what we’ve done with Stretch with the Cats before the spring game, autograph sessions, etc. to break down the barriers that may be real or imaginary within teams or organizations. Hopefully, we can build on the successes of the program and further that. Certainly, the last 15 years we’re third in conference in Big Ten championships behind only the Big 2, but we haven’t had a litany of success over say the past 50 years, especially in the ‘70s there were some rough times,” Phillips articulated.  northwestern

Despite the program posting a very respectable 6 bowl appearances in the past 14 seasons, they may still be haunted by the ghosts of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Wildcats failed to record a winning season from 1972-1994, including an especially putrid period in 1976-1981, when the Wildcats went 3-62-1. But encountering and conquering challenges is nothing new to Phillips.  When he served as Northern Illinois University Athletic Director, he and former Iowa AD Bob Bowlsby arranged a football game between NIU and Iowa at Soldier Field. The September 1st, 2007 match-up was a sell-out; setting a Mid-American Conference attendance record for a home football game at 61,500.

“When I signed the lease agreement at Soldier Field, my hand literally shook because of what they wanted to rent the facility and I thought: how many tickets do I have to sell in order for this thing to break even? And we did a lot more than break even, but that’s just part of being aggressive through marketing and promotions.”

2010 NFL Mock Draft

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By Peter Christian

The 2010 NFL Draft is about 6 months away. There is more than half of the NFL season left to play. We still have to wait two and a half months to see a BCS Champion crowned. But the 2010 NFL Draft is about 6 months away. Let’s have some fun. (Draft order is reverse order of Peter Christian and Paul M. Banks NFL power rankings, positional need has been taken into account with each pick)

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#1 St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford QB Oklahoma

Bradford’s injury status is now behind him and he is still looked upon as a potential great NFL QB. If all things stay static (Rams get the #1 pick overall, Bradford stays healthy) you can pretty much guarantee Bradford will be moving his game about 500 miles North and East up I-44. Rams fans have probably already begun counting down the days (190 to be exact) which they have every right to do.

#2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Russell Okung OT Oklahoma State

Russell Okung is as good a left tackle you will find in all of college football. He has the fundamental base of a franchise tackle to go with his physical skills. Okung also gets praised by pretty much everyone for his intelligence as well.

#3 Cleveland Browns

Eric Berry S Tennessee

If you don’t know who Eric Berry is, look him up. He could be the heir apparent to Ed Reed as the elite defensive playmaker in the NFL.

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#4 Kansas City Chiefs

Brandon Spikes LB Florida

Tim Tebow gets ALL the hype around the Gators which means Brandon Spikes isn’t quite the household name it should be. He is the best inside linebacker to come out of college since Patrick Willis and will have a similar impact in the NFL.

#5 Oakland Raiders

Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska

This is pretty much the lowest Suh should go. He is an expert at winning his battle at the line of scrimmage and causes disruption in the backfield constantly. He is an every down defensive tackle due to his dual ability to stuff the run or crash the pocket.

#6 Buffalo Bills

Carlos Dunlap DE Florida

Dunlap is one of the biggest reasons Gator opponents have backfield mishaps. He is fast AND strong which will allow him to cause nightmares for opposing tackles for years to come.

#7 Detroit Lions

Trent Williams OT Oklahoma

The Okung or Williams debate over who is the better choice at offensive tackle is one where there really isn’t a loser. Trent Williams, like Okung, has good feet, strong hands and the talent to become elite in the NFL.

#8 Tennessee Titans

Gerald McCoy DT Oklahoma

McCoy is a pillar of strength that can dominate from the center of the field. He is very agile for a guy just shy of 300 pounds and will be a combine favorite.

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#9 Jacksonville Jaguars

Tim Tebow QB Florida

Tebow gets knocked for his throwing shortfalls but he has the leadership market cornered and if there is any player in the draft pool that will work to better themselves, Tebow is it.

#10 San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina)

Jevan Snead QB Ole Miss

Snead’s stock has solidified as a first rounder but a good run through the SEC could determine if he is picked near the top or bottom. He isn’t elusive by any means but his pocket presence and second nature footwork in the pocket makes him a quarterback with a future in the NFL. He has the ability to throw to any spot on the field but his accuracy fails him when he gets lazy.

#11 Washington Redskins

Dez Bryant WR Oklahoma State

Bryant’s body of work is more than enough to impress scouts even with his current eligibility issue. His body control and athleticism is something that has NFL coaches very intrigued. He has battled injury issues, but when he’s on the field he is a force.

#12 Miami Dolphins

Taylor Mays S USC

If you asked a scout to write down their ideal size and speed numbers for an NFL free safety they’d list: 6-3, 235, 4.4. Oddly enough that is Taylor’s height, weight and 40 time on record. Enough said.

#13 Houston Texans

Greg Hardy DE Ole Miss

Greg Hardy may be the purest sack artist in the draft. He has a lethal combination of speed and power that he mixes up to get to the quarterback. Hardy also has a sort of “Overdrive” that he shifts into once he smells a possible sack.

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#14 Seattle Seahawks

Jahvid Best RB California

Best is exactly what is name proclaims at his position. He has very good vision and an even better instinct on when to turn on the jets. He is very good at making defenders miss at every level. He isn’t a bruiser back but if coupled with a versatile offense he has the makings of the next young playmaking running back.

#15 Green Bay Packers

Charles Brown OT USC

Brown is a people mover that has the benefit of playing in a pro-style offensive scheme that will make the college-to-NFL transition much easier than some.

#16 Dallas Cowboys

Terence Cody DT Alabama

Cody is a big time anchor guy who could go higher if he stays in good shape throughout the combine and workout process. He is a perfect 3-4 true nose tackle and can really control the flow and direction of a play.

#17 Arizona Cardinals

Jermaine Gresham TE Oklahoma

Gresham is an elite pass catching tight end. He can run a perfect seam route or he can cover a lot of space over the middle. He needs to work on his blocking but he should be a touchdown machine with his hands, size and route running skills.

#18 Denver Broncos (from Chicago)

Arthur Jones DT Syracuse

Jones’ is a gap filler and is stronger than Atlas. He is in a Pat Williams type run stopper that will be look like a man amongst boys at times. He plays hard on every play and is of the rare breed of football players that will never quit on any play.

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#19 San Diego Chargers

Jonathan Dwyer RB Georgia Tech

Dwyer is an old school workhorse running back. He can run inside and outside and can handle as many carries as the coach gives him. Dwyer’s a big back, but he has good speed as well and can be the muscle of a two back system or handle the lone number one duties as well.

#20 New England Patriots

Sergio Kindle LB Texas

Kindle is a versatile linebacker that is an excellent attacker. He takes very good angles to the ball and makes tackles all over the field. Sergio’s mix of energy and instincts allows him to overcome the fact that he is a little slower than coaches would want.

#21 San Francisco 49ers

Sean Weatherspoon LB Missouri

Weatherspoon can play both sides of the field (he’ll end up near the ball anyway) and is always around a big play. Whether he’s rushing the passer, busting up a play in the backfield, breaking up a pass or chasing down a receiver from behind, Weatherspoon can do it all.

#22 Atlanta Falcons

CJ Spiller RB Clemson

Spiller’s a fast runner built on a solid frame. His outside running game and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is where he’ll make his mark, but he’s not afraid to go right at a defender. A little extra muscle and being able to show his durability will help Spiller’s stock go up.

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#23 New York Jets

Brandon LaFell WR LSU

LaFell is a rubber band man when it comes to contorting his body in the air to make the catch. His hands are his biggest asset as he catches the ball softly and away from his body. He needs to improve his route running as he isn’t a super fast runner but as long as he makes catches to bail out his quarterback he’ll be a good NFL player.

#24 Cincinnati Bengals

Rolando McClain LB Alabama

McClain is an amazing tackler in space and can cover a lot of ground from the middle linebacker spot. He’s got great fundamentals and has a knack of shedding blockers to make big tackles.

#25 Pittsburgh Steelers

Brandon Graham DE Michigan

Graham is a big body that plays very well upfield. Scouts will love that he is versatile enough to play the end position in either scheme.

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#26 Baltimore Ravens

Arrelious Benn WR Illinois

Benn is the prototype when it comes to the big, athletic receivers. He has the potential to be the first WR off the board if he starts producing or has an amazing combine and workout process.

#27 Seattle Seahawks (from Denver)

Jake Locker QB Washington

Locker’s draft stock has shot up with his solid play this season for the Huskies. I expect things will come down by draft time but he’s raised enough eyebrows to maintain his status as a potential number one pick.

#28 New Orleans Saints

Derrick Morgan DE Georgia Tech

Morgan is a high energy pass rusher with great size. He is an animal off the snap and disrupts plays behind the line of scrimmage with regularity.

#29 Philadelphia Eagles

Jermaine Cunningham DE Florida

Cunningham isn’t as explosive as his teammate Carlos Dunlap but he is more reliable on a play by play basis. He gets to the quarterback with regularity and makes a lot of tackles in the run game as well.

#30 New York Giants

Joe Haden CB Florida

Haden has jumped to the top of the board amongst other corners with solid coverage and ball skills. He makes good reads and adjusts well to the ball when its in the air.

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#31 Minnesota Vikings

Colt McCoy QB Texas

From a mechanics standpoint, McCoy is not quite the best he could be. Yet, he is amazingly accurate and can rifle the ball to almost any location on the field. Though its his playmaking skills that make McCoy an attractive QB to NFL teams in need.

#32 Indianapolis Colts

Patrick Robinson CB Florida State

Robinson is a super fast coverage man that is above average in nearly every aspect of the game. He anticipates routes but isn’t a huge risk taker and tackles well in the open field. He is also a very good return man.

College Football Week 6 Live Blog

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10:30 AM:  Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by!  We’ll be chatting up some solid college football action, with a lot of Big Ten early on in the day, and some big national games later on!  Paul Banks will help us get things kicked off live from the Northwestern campus, giving us insight from the “box”, and the rest of us will have insights on the games on TV.  The tentative schedule we’ll be watching below.
11AM
Purdue at Minnesota
Michigan State at Illinois
Miami (OH) at Northwesterm
2:30PM
Bama at Ol’ Miss
Wisconsin at tOSU
 Oregon at UCLA
7PM
Florida at LSU
Ga. Tech at Florida State
Michigan at Iowa

In the meantime, check out some of our great content from the week:

Paul Banks with a nice feature on should-be Heisman candidate Case Keenum.

The weekly Big Ten Power Rankings…many shuffles in the rankings this week.

Paul Banks talked to the resurgent Penn State running backs, including the effervescent Stephfon Green.

Could we interest you in some gambling, hmmmm?

And last but not least, Paul Schmidt waxes poetic on the benching of Juice Williams.

Most importantly, we’ll be back in 30 minutes for some great college football action!

College Football Live Blog, Part 2! Now With More Night Games!

We’re back for the evening, and it’s been a “great” day of football so far.  You know, unless you happen to like Illinois.  Then you’re surly. 

I’m not saying…I’m just saying.

You can expect to see some commentary on a lot of games this evening, including, but not limited to:

Iowa at Penn St.
Notre Dame at Purdue
Texas Tech at Houston

Should be fun, come on in and thrill us with your brilliant insight!