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Better Know a Big Ten Blog: Inside NU, for all your Northwestern coverage

InsideNU has become one of the most popular and prolific Northwestern sports media outlets. EIC Noah Coffman shares a little of how they do it.

While we know we bring you the self-loathing Northwestern Wildcats takes you love, there are some damn good writers out there bringing you the best in Northwestern coverage.

Let’s meet InsideNU, your home for all things Northwestern.

Are you new to OTE? Welcome! Stick around for the rest of our B1G 2019 conference previews. So far, during Northwestern Week, we’ve covered the offense, whether expectations will ever be heightened in Evanston, and what the best uniform combination is to get the ‘Cats the W.

One feature we’ve added this summer is “Better Know a B1G Blog,” wherein we get a chance to hear from the various schools’ own bloggers about what makes their site, their school, and their fans unique places in both the Big Ten and college football. Check out our pieces with [/deep breath] Rutgers’ On the Banks, Illinois’ The Champaign Room, Nebraska’s Corn Nation, Maryland’s Testudo Times, Purdue’s Hammer and Rails, Minnesota’s The Daily Gopher, Michigan State’s The Only Colors, Iowa’s Black Heart Gold Pants, and wisconsin’s Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

Today we’re joined by Noah Coffman, Editor-in-Chief of Inside NU. Be sure to follow Noah on Twitter @coffman_noah, and check out the general ‘Cats coverage from Inside NU while you’re at it!

OTE: Tell us about InsideNU: In the wake of Sippin’ on Purple, Lake the Posts, and other NU blogs retiring and fading out for various reasons, how did InsideNU come into being? Feel free to tell us your origin story, any particular in-jokes we should be aware of, or any other Northwestern-specific quirks we should know about when we pop over to read an article!

Noah Coffman: Inside NU sort of emerged from the ashes after Sippin’ on Purple faded away. All I know about the site’s origins, honestly, is that it was spear-headed by Josh Rosenblat and Kevin Trahan, but as I wasn’t really around for the beginning, you probably know it better than me.

MNW: The inimitable Rodger Sherman had moved on from Sippin’ on Purple, and after a few months of pretty content-less stuff, SBNation made the decision to retire the SoP brand and fold its content into InsideNU. As Noah mentioned, InsideNU had been founded and was really a pioneer in student-run, sports media-style coverage on campus, both at Northwestern and around the Big Ten. Its product has been a revolving door of student editors who provide a really in-depth look at Northwestern athletics.

NC: There aren’t a ton of Inside NU-specific quirks/in-jokes, besides lots of comment section faux-elitism (and sometimes even the real thing), but we love to poke fun at Io_a (they’ve gotta earn that w!).

We are also, as a website, somewhat obsessed with perhaps the best award in all of college football: the Land of Lincoln trophy (aka HAT) that is given to the winner of Northwestern-Illinois. The Wildcats have now held onto it for four straight years.

OTE: We’ll give you this opportunity to apologize for being a Medill student. Your response?

NC: I am actually not a Medill student! Because we are a wholly student-run site, most of our writers are, including our great managing editors Avery Zimmerman and Joe Weinberg.

But, despite being involved with sports journalism from both the broadcasting end (check out WNUR Sports, also entirely student-run, for some great radio work) and the blogging end, I am majoring in cultural anthropology and a program called Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences.


OTE: Give us an idea of what kind of #content you think exemplifies the qualities of InsideNU. What’s been your favorite writing assignment or experience for InsideNU? (Feel free to include links to articles!)

Noah: We pride ourselves on really having a wide variety of content. From our last editor-in-chief Davis Rich’s incredible and moving Isaiah Bowser feature to the ranking of British monarchs by their basketball ability from another former EIC in Tristan Jung, the site really runs the gamut.

Personally, getting the chance to cover last year’s Big Ten Championship (while covering basketball in Assembly Hall the same day) was incredible. More generally, the fact that, despite being students, we are viewed by many as the top source for Northwestern sports content and coverage is kind of surreal, and we work hard to earn that recognition every day.

But my two favorite stories to write were a feature on the Big Ten Champion women’s tennis team in 2018, which was only possible thanks to our dedication to covering non-revenue sports and ended up being incredibly rewarding to write, along with this list of the most important games of the Pat Fitzgerald era, which was really fun to work on and sparked some great discussion.

OTE: What’s one stereotype about the InsideNU writership, commentariat, and Northwestern fanbase that Big Ten fans as a whole get wrong?

Noah: I think a lot of Big Ten fans, especially those that don’t come into contact with Northwestern supporters, assume that because the Wildcats’ fanbase is so small, their fans care less than others. As any reader of Inside NU (and/or OTE) knows, that is simply not the case: we may be small in numbers, but Northwestern fans are just as diehard as those from other schools around the conference.

OTE: What are you most excited about for the Northwestern 2019 season? For the uninitiated fan of another Big Ten school, what are the storylines surrounding your program? Where do you see the ‘Cats in the pantheon of Big Ten football going into 2019, and do you see Pat Fitzgerald’s trajectory as sustainable?

Noah: Though there are significant questions about this Wildcat team, their defensive ends, linebackers, and wide receivers are arguably as deep as they’ve ever been under Fitz. That means more sacks and, possibly, more big plays on the outside, which I for one am looking forward to.

The team as a whole is obviously looking to repeat something they had never done until 2018 in winning the Big Ten West. Though the division is getting more feisty, the Wildcats are certainly right in the mix. The big question from an outsiders perspective, though, regards the QB situation. Hunter Johnson, the ballyhooed five-star transfer from Clemson, is the presumptive starter, but he has not yet been officially named as such (according to Fitz, we won’t know until “kickoff in Palo Alto.”)

To me, Northwestern leads the second tier of Big Ten Football. They aren’t quite national contenders, but have turned themselves into a consistently fringe top-25 program. Though the team is recruiting better, it’s difficult to see them as a consistent challenger to Ohio State et al, but a one-season breakthrough certainly doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

OTE: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Anything else—tailgating advice, Evanston bars to visit (are there any left?), local cuisine (RIP Rollin’ to Go), etc.—we should know about Northwestern and InsideNU?

Noah: Tailgating-wise, the west lot is the place to be. As a 20-year-old, I of course would have no idea about bars or anything to do with alcohol (of the dwindling number, Bat 17 is probably your best bet as a sports fan, though it is a bit high-end).

Evanston has a really good variety of food options, though many are chains of some kind, so you can’t really go wrong, but if you aren’t on a diet (and I assume most aren’t) Mustard’s Last Stand right by the stadium gives you a true taste of the Chicago area (I’m from the city so I can say that) and Chicken Shack is a great late-night option.

Thanks, Noah! Be sure to give Noah and InsideNU a follow on Twitter for the best Northwestern coverage on the internet dot come, and check out their longform pieces at InsideNU whenever you get the chance, too—it’s well-done writing that gives you a chance to say you read their stuff “way back when.”