Wow, it’s been a while.
The last time the College GameDay crew came to Evanston was in 1995, when Northwestern topped Iowa 31-20.
Most Northwestern students were just toddlers (or not even born) when the GameDay crew showed up in Evanston, but who can really blame them? After the 1995 season, which culminated in a Rose Bowl appearance, the Wildcats football team has a total of seven winning seasons and only one 10-win campaign.
But now that the program has been turned around, it’s time to look at some more uplifting things that have happened between now and that November night nearly 18 years ago.
NU women’s lacrosse has won seven national championships.
In case you haven’t heard, Northwestern has a pretty good women’s lacrosse team. So good, in fact, that it has won seven of the last nine NCAA championships, including five consecutive titles from 2005 to 2009. By the time Northwestern won its first championship, it had only existed as a Division I team for four years.
Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller has created a dynasty led by the likes of Kristen Kjellman, Hilary Bowen, Shannon Smith, Brianne LoManto, Hannah Nielsen and, most recently, Taylor Thornton. Between them, five Tewaaraton Awards, the highest honor a collegiate female lacrosse player can achieve.
In December of 2009, the Chicago Tribune even named the Northwestern Wildcats lacrosse team as “the team of the decade,” ahead of the White Sox, the Illinois men’s basketball, the Bears and the Cubs.
If you’re Amonte Hiller, you almost have to wonder why College GameDay hasn’t expanded into women’s lacrosse just to feature Northwestern.
Pat Fitzgerald has gone from Northwestern linebacker to Northwestern head coach.
Actually, he did that in just 10 years, which is even more impressive.
Fitzgerald starred on the 1995 squad that led the ‘Cats to their second ever Rose Bowl appearance. He was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Following his graduation, Fitzgerald had a brief stint in the NFL before holding positions at Maryland, Colorado and Idaho. He then returned to his alma mater in 2001 and became the linebackers coach.
After the tragic death of Northwestern head coach Randy Walker in 2006, Fitzgerald was promoted to head coach. He led them to four bowl games, each of which were losses, before earning Northwestern’s first bowl win since 1949 just last year.
Who knows how many mascot heads Lee Corso has put on since then?
Northwestern men’s basketball hasn’t made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State has had 98 players drafted into the NFL – Northwestern has had 24.
If that wasn't glaring enough, a more astonishing statistic is that the Buckeyes have one more first round pick in that time span (25) than Northwestern has total draft picks.
Yes, Ohio State has been a much, much more prominent program, but it doesn’t seem to justify such a gap. And if you were wondering, College GameDay has gone to the OSU campus 13 times since the last time it visited Ryan Field.
A few more random facts for your reading pleasure:
- Four countries were given independence
- The Yankees won five World Series championships
- The Oakland Raiders have had ten different NFL coaches.
- Mike Tyson, Gary Busey, M.C. Hammer and Stan Lee all declared for bankruptcy.
A lot has improved since that fall night in 1995, and that includes the Northwestern football program. The infamous bowl drought is over, Northwestern is a viable Big Ten Championship threat and chances are it won’t be another 18 years before GameDay returns for a third time.