Absolutely nothing interesting in Evanston happened over the off-season. Nothing at all. We were crappy last year and we’re going to be bad this year.
...you don’t believe us?
Fine. We’ll be passable this year.
...that’s not what you didn’t believe?
OK. A timeline, then:
- A Friday in July: Northwestern announces it’s suspending 17-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald for two weeks in the off-season following an investigation into hazing in the Northwestern Wildcats football team.
- About 12 hours later: every goes straight to hell—the hazing was allegedly a lot worse (including things that, if true, rose to the level of sexual assault), the school’s leadership (President Michael Schill and AD Derrick Gragg) sought to minimize the allegations, Gragg had let two boosters hire a baseball coach who was outright abusive to players and killed a kid back at Rhode Island, and a whole lot more.
- The following Monday: Northwestern fires Fitzgerald
In the interim, a whole bunch of lawsuits and allegations have surfaced, from volleyball and baseball players alleging bullying and harassment to football players making racial and other abuse allegations against Fitzgerald and the Northwestern athletics department.
This is not to weigh on the merits of each individual claim—frankly, this is a preview of a shitty football team that’s going to win a few games against other shitty teams, and the idea here is just to give you an idea of how awful things are in Evanston.
We’re going to do these Closing Arguments old-school-OTE-style, and with two lawyers handling the case, I’m sure this will go well.
A. Case History
MNW: All that shit above followed a season in which Northwestern used five quarterbacks, only one of whom—Brendan Sullivan—showed an iota of promise. They beat Nebraska in the world’s stupidest fucking football game over in Ireland, then lost eleven straight.
Those included games to Duke, Miami of Ohio, and Southern goddamn fucking Illinois.
We lost to a spindly-legged dog of a long-gone royal dynasty. And also sweater-vest-wearing Chuck Martin. And also goddamn Duke.
B. Opening Statement
LPW: The fanbase has tolerated a lot, from basically not giving a shit about football from the 70s to Gary Barnett to ulcer and Malört shot inducing Mick McCall speed runs, but during all that time we think it was fair to say we believed the players were upstanding young men that represented the school well and the coaches guided them from homesick boys attending Camp Kenosha for the first time to men graduating with good GPAs at NCAA leading graduation rates.
The alleged player misbehavior has led to transfers, decommittments, lawsuits, and the firing of the winningest head coach in school history who happened to be a former all-American here at Northwestern.
Newly hired (from North Dakota) Defensive Coordinator David Braun has been elevated into the head coach role. He’s never been a head coach before. Skip Holtz has been hired as an assistant.
So what’s going to happen this fall?
A. What We’ve Written
Look, here are a bunch of links. None of them matter, because after we wrote all this shit about how Northwestern will probably be bad against but at least Ben Bryant could be a decent QB and there are pieces in the secondary and at running back, everything blew up.
Actually, looking back, I asked in my Cocktail Party Preview if it was “Time to Blow It All Up?”
To review, I wrote every single one of those headlines BEFORE the hazing scandal.
B. Pop Culture
Several Northwestern coaches/staffers, including OC Mike Bajakian, are donning "Cats Against the World" shirts with No. 51 — Pat Fitzgerald's old jersey number — on them. pic.twitter.com/ZFQ3tNU1Vv— Bradley Locker (@Bradley_Locker) August 9, 2023
Shitty, trite, and unwanted.
III. Schedule of Events
- Sunday, Sept. 3: at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11am, CBS)
- Saturday, Sept. 9: vs. UTEP Miners (2:30pm, BTN)
- Saturday, Sept. 16: at Duke Blue Devils (2:30pm, ACCN)
- Saturday, Sept. 23: vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Saturday, Sept. 30: vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
- Saturday, Oct. 7: vs. Howard Bison (2pm, Homecoming against goddamn Howard)
- Saturday, Oct. 21: at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Saturday, Oct. 28: vs. Maryland Terrapins
- Saturday, Nov. 4: the “Wildcat Classic” at Wrigley Field vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
- Saturday, Nov. 11: at Wisconsin Badgers
- Saturday, Nov. 18: vs. Purdue Boilermakers
- Saturday, Nov. 25: at Illinois Fighting Illini
Pick the stupidest part of that schedule. Go ahead!
What’s the dumbest fucking thing on that list?
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A Sunday season-opener at Rutgers at 11am on national TV
GOING TO DUKE A-GODDAMN-GAIN
Homecoming against an FCS doormat in October
Giving up a home game to play Iowa, a fanbase that travels well, in a shitbox of a baseball stadium that’s home to the dumbest goddamn team
IV. Emotional Appeal
You saw that I compared us to Coldplay, right?
I am still going to don purple twelve times this fall and cheer for Northwestern. I’m even thinking about flying to Evanston to attend a game in person so I can see and commiserate with my friends! I am the stupidest person alive.
Take pity on us if you want, I guess. There’s no reason to cheer for Northwestern in its current iteration. But if you’re voting for our record, I guess remember that Rutgers and UTEP and Howard should be bad enough that this team could squeak to three wins.
V. The Verdict
A. Requesting a Plea Bargain, Your Honor
4-8, with Big Ten wins over Rutgers and Maryland because I don’t respect them.
B. Jury’s Verdict
as i’ve always said, goforthree is a man of taste
Northwestern in the Big Ten in 2023:
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3-6 or better
Northwestern overall in 2023:
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5-7 or better