Spread-Option Trend-Setters: 2000 Big Ten Champion Northwestern Wildcats


When it comes to Northwestern Wildcats football, everyone usually brings up 1995, and how that team re-defined the ‘Cats. But I’ve always said that it’s really a different Big Ten championship team, the 2000 squad, who really ushered in a new era for NU. Because that was the first year Randy Walker installed the spread-option offensive system, and the program has showcased exciting, fun to watch, usually pass-happy football ever since.

And the spread has really taken off across college football since then, making the Cats rather avant-garde. And it makes sense, considering the phrase “SPREAD far the fame” is right there in the fight song.

I discussed the system with Damien Anderson, star tailback on that bellwether team, and NU’s all-time leading rusher.

By Paul M. Banks

[Read more…]

Northwestern’s Top Ten Players of the Decade


By Paul M. Banks

For the first time since the 1930s, Northwestern football will have a winning decade. Indeed the program has taken a major step up to gain respectability and more during the 2000s. From about the 1960s up until 1995, going to Ryan Field and watching the home team lose was like walking into a Starbucks and hearing Norah Jones; 19 times out of 20 (Or thereabouts) it happens.

But since Pat Fitzgerald took over the program in 2006, the ‘Cats have nipped, clawed and scratched their way into bowl eligibility in every season but one during his tenure. If they win the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day, 2009’s season win total will tie 2008 for second most in school history. It’s clear that Northwestern bowl berths will soon become as much a part of the holidays as that annoying over-synthesized Paul McCartney tune “Wonderful Christmas Time.”

So who are the top ten players who made this Evanston renaissanace possible? I enlisted the help of a man who knows more about NU sports than any other journalist I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting; the Daily Herald’s Lindsey Wilhite. In addition to his reporting duties, check out the blog he currently pens at the Herald site entitled Joe Sports

[Read more…]