College Football Hall of Fame class to be announced at exotic location

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The 2010 college football hall of fame class will be announced at a rather interesting and exotic location. Read the entire post to find out where.

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College Football hope springs Eternal in April

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By Paul M. Banks

EVANSTON, IL- In this city, the phrase “wait till next year” is a natural part of the local dialect. It specifically refers to the Chicago Cubs’ postseason ineptitude since 1908. (And if early returns are any indication, things will likely not change this October.

But the phrase also applies to another Chicago area team: the Northwestern Wildcats, who have the dubious distinction in the college football world of zero bowl wins since 1949. And they’ve plenty of chances: 1995, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2009. The connection between the two teams grew even stronger yesterday, as it was formally announced that the Wildcats will play their in-state rivalry game with Illinois at the Cubs’ home of Wrigley Field this fall. The revelation created even more optimistic buzz within the program.

Today, the day of the NU spring scrimmage concluding spring football practice, is the first major step towards ending the 0-for-7 drought. And this same feeling of eternal optimism is present on campuses everywhere during this college football Saturday. Well, it’s sort of a college football Saturday.

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Is Spring College Football Worth Talking About?

By Paul M. Banks and Melissa Wollering

Despite the fact that media coverage for it has increased exponentially in recent years, how come no one seems to give a flying rat’s ass about college football spring games?
At least no one outside the South anyway. Sure, in places like Ohio State, they’ll draw a packed house for their spring scrimmages, but in most places: YAWN! Ten or fifteen years ago, there was no media coverage at all of spring football practice.

Today, it’s like National Signing Day, much ado about nothing. Is it simply because “spring football” is an oxymoron like “Cuddly Dick Cheney” or “Sober Tara Reid?” Seriously, autumn is a word synonymous with the gridiron or some chick who dances on stages in clear heels. Springtime is for baseball, not football. It’s just unnatural.

Or is the fact that every school uses a different system for scoring their spring games which no one understands except the coaching staff and that particular school. Northwestern had the second most wins in school history last season, yet only 3,000 people came out to watch their spring game (but is it a game when the scoreboard shows 15:00, Purple 0, White 0 the entire time? Their “game” was just 75 plays with no score. And these arcane scoring systems vary greatly from each program, and many schools don’t even have scoring. And with the limited contact and inversion of playing time given what you would expect upon viewing the depth chart, you really can’t discern much about your team. So why does ESPN bother televising spring games, as Homer Simpson would say BOR-RING!

Or is it because there’s just way too much going on right now, NBA/NHL playoffs, MLB regular season, the NFL Draft: there’s just no room for it. Big Ten Network and ESPN U have to broadcast SOMETHING this time of year, so I guess that’s the answer.

–PMB


MELISSA S. WOLLERING:

Spring football at Camp Randall is more about marketing the Athletic Department than it is about gauging individual player development.  I would argue everyone already knows that though, so the coverage of such games (at least by the Big 10 Network) is about branding the network and its product more than anything.

The good news: the University makes it “Family Day” and invites kids and parents to collect autographs from their favorite players, meet Bucky and get a chance to play catch on the field itself before the game. It’s free, so if a family can’t afford tickets to a Big 10 matchup in October, there’s certainly value in the experience.

As for stats on the game, it can take some research. Over the years, the Athletic Department has varied its scoring system and the way it divided players among its “Cardinal” and “White” teams. Years ago, Cardinal was comprised of first-stringers, so White’s points were worth double. Now the teams are a bit more evenly divided in talent and the scoring is standard.

What did I “discern” from the Badgers in terms of potential from this brief glimpse at the ’09 season?  Well, in terms of rushing, Zach Brown exceeded expectations while John Clay wasn’t as impressive as I’d hoped. I learned that if we ever put Frosh Curt Phillips in at QB that he’ll either be so scared to throw the ball that he’ll run it himself on the keeper (which he wasn’t bad at) or he’ll go for the short completion. I learned that our likely QB starter Dustin Sherer feels most comfortable throwing to Soph WR Nick Toon (yeah, he IS Al’s son). Doesn’t appear as though we have a replacement for Travis Beckum and our male cheerleaders need to pump iron during the summer because I feared for the lives of the female members of our spirit squad.

AD Jim Phillips Boosting Northwestern’s profile

By Paul M. Banks and Rikki Greenberg

These days, anyone who follows Chicago sports is well aware of how Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, with the help of Vice President John McDonough, re-branded the Blackhawks from obscure afterthought into main event of the Second City. Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips could likely be the next executive to accomplish such a feat. Anyone who had a pulse in Chicago around New Year’s heard all about Wrigley Field’s hosting of the 2009 NHL Winter Classic. And the huge success of that event inspired Northwestern’s AD into thinking about using the legendary ballpark for an event of his own.

Phillips is aggressively pursuing the idea of joining forces with the Cubbie faithful for a football duel between Northwestern and the University of Illinois in 2010 or beyond. The plans for Wildcat football at Wrigley Field are still in the beginning stages, but Phillips has had talks with Chicago Cubs Chairman Crane Kenny regarding the potential game and other future initiatives. He’s also been hanging with out with Brooks Boyer, the White Sox V.P. or marketing and John McDonough, the man who holds the same position with the Blackhawks as well as Bulls brass. When he sees them he picks their brain to get more ideas.

Like Rocky Wirtz, he’s a man of the people: greeting everybody he can, getting involved in the community, talking in depth with fans and media alike. He gets to know the journalists covering his team because basically, the AD is to collegiate sports what the owner is to the professional games.

Using the surrounding area’s valuable sports assets to raise more awareness for collegiate athletics isn’t new to Phillip’s innovative marketing style. When Philips served as Northern Illinois University Athletic Director prior to his arrival at Northwestern, he and former Iowa Director of Athletics 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.

Phillips’ creative use of using The Friendly Confines or Solider Field as alternative playing grounds is just one example of his creative methods for promoting college athletics. Since he burst onto the Wildcat scene in April of last year, Phillips has already organized a meeting between Notre Dame and the Northwestern baseball teams at U.S. Cellular Field. The event was a wonderful surprise for both the Notre Dame and Northwestern coaches, players and most importantly, the fans.

There have been other notable successes under the Phillips regime. The purple and white have a multifariously victorious resume. Women’s lacrosse have continued their dominance of this decade (2008 NCAA Lacrosse Champions for the fourth-consecutive year), softball (Big Ten regular season and tournament champions) and men’s basketball (first NIT appearance in 10 years, win over a top ten team in 15 years and finishing one win shy of the school record).

Wildcat football also benefited from Phillips passion for his position with a trip to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas following a season in which the team was, like the b-ball squad, one win shy of the school record.

The key to Phillips success hasn’t been just his ability to color outside the lines, but also his relentless campaigning for the end result, coupled with his passion for college athletics and student-athlete development. Perhaps the head coach of Northwestern’s baseball team, Paul Stevens, said it best when he explained the influence Phillips has on the Wildcat athletic community.

“He has made a major difference in how he goes about taking care of the teams,” said Stevens. “I think this event is evident of what this gentleman is talking about when he talks about world class experiences. He does not know the word no. He will go out and try to give you the best opportunity to showcase your program and this was a great venue for that.” Stevens also expressed gratitude over Phillips “pushing the envelope” for the athletic programs at Northwestern. Quite the understatement.