And…we’re underway! The first fall practice is behind us as the ‘Cats donned helmets and no pads for the first official practice of the 2012 campaign. The 19-session practice had a few dramatic moments, including freshman RB Malin Jones being down for nearly 15 minutes before being carted off the Evanston field, but have no fear, it was merely dehydration. A few other nuggets gleaned from Chris Emma of PurpleWildcats.com and NU’s own reporting of the first day:
- Roderick Goodlaw has moved from LB to DE
- Freshman “star” Ifeadi Odenigbo platooned at both LB and DE
- According to Chris Emma, Mike Trumpy looked solid while NUSports.com boasted about Treyvon Green’s play
- Evan Watkins, sporting #81 at his new position – superback – seemed to show some good hands on day one
- Kyle Prater got the post-practice media love from ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg with this video interview.
Despite the fact that the Illini have recently regained bragging rights from Northwestern in what was a series we had owned for some time, you’ve got to love the venom that seems to be eminating from “that team down south”. From the second Illini AD Mike Thomas set foot on campus he seemed to have a Northwestern chip on his shoulder claiming he would make the Illini the “king of Chicago”. Northwestern’s marketing position of “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”, aimed at both claiming our backyard city as our town and also a slight play on words to try and attract the hotbed of college football frenzied alums to give our program a shot as their #2 has clearly irked Illini fans. Thanks in part to the work of Mike Polisky, the medial relations team and Pat Fitzgerald’s likable personality with the media influencers in Chicago, (and likely a sizable media buy to the major papers in town) there is a noticeable domination of coverage of the ‘Cats over the Illini in the past few seasons.
The Illini have been in reactive mode from a marketing standpoint despite winning back-to-back games in the series. Thomas’ clear shot across the Northwestern bow only buoyed the ‘Cats marketing position, validating by clearly drawing fire from the home state team. Then, when new head coach Tim Beckman took the reigns, he poured gas on the fire that is our brand awareness by eliminating purple from his wardrobe, posting a Ghostbusters-like red slash through the Wildcats logo that hangs outside the lockerroom and refuses in public to mention Northwestern by name, instead calling us “that team up north”. This of course after the “na na na na na” cheap shot of playing “Sweet Home Chicago” on the PA system after last year’s Illini win over Northwestern (however, another cheap shot, a knee to the nuts of a Wildcat player by Illini Jonathan Brown did little to court any respect with NU fans). Now, you’ve got to think that Jim Phillips and Mike Polisky are downright chuckling at the validation each Illini move does to help reinforce the first-to-market position of the ‘Cats recent media blitz.
From the moment he was hired as athletic director, Mike Thomas has set out to make Illinois the “king of Chicago” and the state’s definitive college program.
Late last week Illinois stood on their soapbox by revealing their own marketing mantra – “ILLINOIS. OUR STATE. OUR TEAM.” According to the Illinois press release:
The theme will be used in a variety of ways including advertising, street banners, team posters, schedule cards, stadium signage and video board graphics. … The “ILLINOIS. OUR STATE. OUR TEAM.” campaign will be incorporated into a large-scale brand evaluation program that the DIA will partner with Nike beginning in 2013. The 18-month collaboration will result in an updated brand identity including new football uniforms for 2014.”
The ‘Cats of course made marketing waves recently with the unveiling of Under Armour’s first foray in to the Big Ten with a rather overwhelming positive outcry for new Northwestern uniforms. At the end of the day, this sideline marketing spat means little when it comes to on-field results. However, I can tell you that I have pent up disdain for the Illini this season like none I can remember. I really, really want this game.
Recently, the ‘Cats decided to quickly take a pass on getting involved in trolling for Penn State players in the wake of the NCAA sanctions. They were not alone in the Big Ten in deciding to take a pass on being proactive. However, the Illini, in my mind, again went backwards with their brand by reportedly having eight different assistant coaches on campus in full Illini gear which net one transfer. Good for them. I can’t wait to see them in Evanston this year. It’s time to get the Land of Lincoln trophy back. When we do, I sure hope we act like we’ve been there before. Afterall, our rivalry game is a few weeks before.
Rules To Live By
This will come in to play as we get closer to the season, but there are a pair of new rules that I want to call attention to everyone as they are “must knows” so that we can continue to uptick the education of our fanbase.
The Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) approved moving the kickoff and touchback lines beginning with the 2012 football season.Get this. Teams will kick off at the 35-yard line instead of the 30. Also, players on the kicking team can’t line up for the play behind the 30-yard line, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams used to have during the play.
Also, touchbacks on free kicks will be moved to the 25-yard line instead of the 20 to encourage more touchbacks. Think about that. Think about how important our kicking game will become as we’ve been pretty average at getting the rock in the endzone on kickoffs. Touchbacks on other plays (ex – punts that go into the end zone, or fumbles that go out of the end zone) will remain at the 20-yard line.
The other new rule that goes into effect this season is if a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, such as a facemask), it will be treated like an injury. The player must leave the game and is not allowed to participate for the next play. Think about this for a minute. It’s under :30 to go in a game and a player’s helmet comes flying off his head, unprovoked. It’s essentially the same as getting a penalty that marks off a chunk of time, which in essence could end the game. The player must come out and the injury timeout rules are in effect to prevent a team from gaming the system to stop the clock. If you don’t think this is a huge deal, just ask the coaches about what they’re doing to safeguard against this. The rules committee claimed that unnecessary helmet loss happened about twice per game. It’s hard to argue with the sentiment towards safety, but this is going to cause at least a few teams a last minute headache.
Finally, for those of you, like me, who concentrate on the OL on the point of the snap, there is a pretty big new rule in effect here as well. Offensive players in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion are allowed to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (for example, straight-ahead blocks).
Chicago Connection For ‘Cats Games
It’s that time of year again when we get the NU Bar Network up and running so that no matter what city you are in you have a place to convene with fellow ‘Cats fans. Be sure to check out your city and update me with new info as bars tend to change from month to month in various cities. However, if you’re in Chicago and looking for a great way to get safe transportation that can include everything from a game ticket to a ride to food and drink then look no further than our gal pal, Gia D., who is running point on the shuttle options from Kendall’s Pub as part of her duties as VP Marketing of the NU Club of Chicago. All the info is below:
Football Home Game Bus Trips
Looking for a convenient, inexpensive way to get to Northwestern home football games? Want to save $10 on tickets to the SOLD OUT Nebraska game or Iowa Homecoming game? Join fellow alumni at Kendall’s Pub (2263 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago 60614) before heading to the game together on a chartered bus. Game ticket, light appetizers, roundtrip bus service from Kendall’s to Ryan Field one hour of domestic drafts, and beer on the bus are included.
Date: Saturday, October 20, $60
Register at http://alumni.northwestern.edu/events/7036Vs. Iowa
Date: Saturday, October 27 (Homecoming), $45
Register at http://alumni.northwestern.edu/events/7056
LTP Ticket Challenge
Gia D. gets double bonus points for also convincing a pair of friends to pick up season tickets as she sold them on the tailgate atmosphere, the home schedule and the abundance of single men at NU games. Way to go Gia! Also, Alan A. added a +1 to his ticket package to make it a 3-seat deal so he can bring friends and potential new season ticket holders. Way to go guys! Send us your story of converting NEW season ticket holders and help push us over the 100-ticket mark. If we can keep up the current pace, we’ll reach our goal of 200 NEW season tickets by the home opener on September 8 vs Vanderbilt. Don’t forget to include that our first two home games are a night game (7pm ct vs Vanderbilt on September 8) and a late afternoon start time (2:30 pm ct) for the BC game on 9/15! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.