Ask Not What NU Can Do For You, But What You Can Do As A Fan….

Ryan Field Endzone wide vs NEB 2012

More than five years ago I started this blog with the primary goal of doing my part to get Ryan Field packed with 47,130 purple-clad fans every week. As a fan, there are very few things you can do to influence the on-field performance, however, on Saturday, we got to see first hand what those things are thanks to the nearly 30,000 Nebraska fans that came, saw and kicked our fans asses in fandom. We may have lost on the field by a point, but we got slaughtered in the stands.  The single most emailed item of the 2012 season was without question Kain Colter’s postgame quote which should be blown up in to a two-story quote and posted on the Ryan Field towers as a scarlet letter to our fan base when he confessed that he couldn’t hear his lineman on the two final drives and was forced to go to a silent count.  “We didn’t prepare for that the entire week.”

Why would you? You’re at home. Or so you thought. Let me be clear on this folks.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  There are all sorts of questions that should be answered by Mick McCall and Fitz, specifically around personnel packages on Saturday, moreso than even the offensive playcalling.  Yet, we as a fan base have to take responsibility for this loss as well.  While I realize this readership is akin to being the churchgoers getting scolded for those who didn’t attend church, I’m hopeful you can help spread the word.

The fact that fans and media are openly questioning strategy is a sign of progress for the program as “real programs” get that daily.  It’s a good thing.  The fact that Fitz has become far less defensive with the media is a good thing – it’s a sign of embracing the spotlight and expectations. However, the fact four sections on the east side of the stadium were converted from season ticket holding sections to a road game is a joke. Yes, we can bitch all we want about the two fourth quarter meltdowns that have precluded us from being a top ten BCS team this year.  However, we as a fan base must take accountability as well.

If I get accused of the following being interpreted as accepting mediocrity, I will blow my lid. One of the obvious eye tests on Saturday was that Nebraska had more athletic talent across the board than we did, particularly at the defensive skill positions. Amazingly, we at least had a draw with the trenches, as I’m chalking the final 140 yards of Nebraska offense up to secondary injury exploitation. We held them to nearly 100 yards below their rushing average.  However, our WRs were partially to blame for not being able to separate and Trevor will take the blame for consistent underthrows as well. Why all this talent talk? Well, talent is the lifeblood of a program, and Fitz has significantly upgraded the talent in the past two seasons despite what I believe is one of the toughest sells to a 17-year-old.

Northwestern fans will tell you that if you’re a kid who respects the value of a good education that NU is a no-brainer choice. It’s a B1G school in a world class city with a coach who gets the big picture of life. All true. I’ve got one question for you. If you were one of the dozen or so recruits who were sitting exactly two rows behind me (including Matt Alviti who sits there every game seemingly recruiting other recruits) on Saturday, facing the east stands and you had an offer from Nebraska and Northwestern, what would you do? A kid getting recruited by both schools is laser focused on making the NFL, despite what rationale you may he think he should have. Nebraska boasts the most impressive list of Academic All Americans in the country. I know what I would’ve chosen after Saturday.  Yet, Fitz still competes at the BCS program level and wins.

You try walking a kid around our facility the week after he’s visited Ohio State, Illinois or even Indiana. Let’s say it is September.  What do you say? “Don’t worry, see those 15,000 empty seats, they won’t be there when we play in the conference!”  Or, do you just fib and tell them “we sell out most of our B1G games” and conveniently forget to mention that each sellout consists of at least 40% of the opponents’ fans?

You can tell me that winning cures all, and that is true, but doesn’t fan support impact recruiting which helps you win? Better yet, in the game on Saturday, did you see the impact noise can have on the outcome? Venric Mark blitzed Nebraska for an 80-yard TD run to put us up 11 on national TV and it was less noisy than the Bronx cheer for Nebraska’s first punt return catch. Seriously?

I’m so sick and tired of reading about fans who have been told to sit down.  You know what, let’s set-up a program to text or grab security and have those people ejected and their seats taking away for being detrimental fans. I don’t care if you’re a 40-year season ticket holder, if you don’t stand up, make noise and support the team, go watch at home. Perhaps we can take some of the donation money and install ejector seats.  We’ll give NU administration control of the seats and when they see fans sitting on their ass, they can eject them right out of the stadium and launch them in to Lake Michigan. Wouldn’t that be fun to watch? Better yet, why don’t we create a section sponsored by the golf team where fans can sit content and not have to stand and cheer and do a polite golf clap.  We’ll serve them Luke Donald wine, some scintillating assortment of fine cheese and we won’t even tell them they’ll be at an Evanston Township High School game.

Folks, if the Nebraska invasion didn’t force us to change, nothing will. Can you imagine what it felt like to be a player on Saturday in the fourth quarter? As we needed a stop, the momentum of the noise was working against our own team in our own building.  It’s impossible they didn’t notice.  They’ll never admit it impacted them, but how defeating.  There were dozens of you who sold your parking passes to random Nebraska fans. Shame on you. I went around and asked our neighbors how they got the parking passes which take thousands in donations or two decades of season ticket holding to seucre – “it was easy, there were a ton of them on Craig’s List!”.  So, there I was with my weekly NU newcomers club pitch and we were surrounded by inflatable Herbie the Huskers.

The most frustrating part of all of this is that we’ve been there.  In 1996 and 1997 we sold out regularly with nearly all purple. You don’t believe me? Think back to the ’95 Penn State game or the’96 Michigan game, or even better litmus tests, games against Minnesota and Purdue. It got loud. Not Nebraska loud, but home field advantage loud. The ’96 Michigan game was insanity in the 4th quarter.  Our then marketing team screwed up bigtime by not capitalizing on it. We’re paying for it nearly 20 years later.

Right now, we get 30,000 NU fans per game, using finger in the air math based on the Vandy and BC crowds.  This is why the Nebraska game hurt so much.  This game caught the non-NU media attention. David Haugh dipped his pen in the NU football near magic for a minute and now he is gone. Crain’s Chicago echoed this sentiment by highlighting the media attention – the game peaked a at a downright ridiculous (in a great way )8 rating in Chicago – and then ripping NU for “fumbling” yet another opportunity to convert the casual fan:

Saturday’s game showcased exactly what makes it difficult for pro-team-first  Chicago sports fans to jump on the Wildcat bandwagon: losing big games  (especially when people are watching).

Despite the strong branding that has infiltrated Chicago billboards, radio  stations and television sets, Northwestern’s football and basketball programs  continue to come up short of what’s needed to capture a broader fan base.

The athletic department at NU has made tremendous progress in promoting  purple fever as never before, but fumbling away national spotlight opportunities  the way the Cats did Saturday is slowly becoming the Achilles’ heel for Athletic  Director Jim Phillips’ grand plan. – Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago, October 22, 2012

I’ll say it again. The lack of fan support does not excuse the ‘Cats from late game collapses. They’re not mutually exclusive. However, when I receive emails from family members of current starters begging for help on fan support it is time to sound the alarm. It would be naive to chalk this up to painting Nebraska as an exception.  All the billboards, media relations and digital marketing in the world will pale in comparison to relationship marketing and that is where you come in to play.

I get it. You’re already doing it. Well, until I can grow the readership to include every single season ticket holder (which is a long way to go), I’m counting on you to bring people in to the fold. The old Chinese math of “if every reader just brought 2 purple clad fans and we’d have a sellout every week” was that easy, it’d be done. However, you do make a difference – and I suspect can do just a little bit more. Let’s use the Nebraska embarassment as a “never again” mantra.  Saturday is STILL not a sellout despite the fact you know Iowa will bring some 15,000+ fans.  Please, no excuses about student size or alumni base, this is up to you and me. As you’ve heard “single game tickets are still available” which means it is not sold out. The Illini game is FAR from soldout since Illini fans have jumped ship since the 1990s.  Let’s use these final two home games as a grassroots movement to galvanize fan support for our team this year, and what could shape up to be a magical 2013 season with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State (along with Minnesota, Syracuse, Western Michigan (Vandy sucks) and Maine) on the home slate. Call 1-888-Go-Purple and ask for Tony Devito, the LTP ticket manager and tell him you’re here to help.

You can feel free to vent and criticize all you want, but we as fans have to start taking responsibility too. Let’s learn from Nebraska, get your neighbors up off their duffs and lo and behold start banging the bleachers and make some noise. Go ‘Cats.

Best Analysis Yet

Kudos to former ‘Cats QB CJ Bacher for his brilliant breakdown of the ‘Cats-Nebraska game. If you don’t get WildcatReport.com, his Monday Morning QB is worth the subscription alone. He broke down Nebraska’s Cover 2-man and meticulously broke down how the Huskers brought a safety in to the box, forcing NU to test the corners in a classic “our best athletes vs your best athletes” duel, which they clearly won.  For anyone criticizing the downfield bombs we repeatedly threw and your want to open up the short passing game, this explains exactly why we did what we did and why Nebraska did what they did. Great job CJ.

Project Pass The Hat
We’re in this together. There are only four more days of the LTP pledge drive and we need your help to get to our goal. We’re 80% there.  We’ve got a ton of content to help us turn the corner so think of it as a voluntary membership and know that the money is going to go to pay website design and programming, and a slew of related costs that have added up to make this something that we’ll need your help to keep growing. We’re extremely appreciative of ANY amount you’d be so kind to consider to give. We will be giving a portion of the money – in the name of the LTP community – to Northwestern, for a cause that we will collectively decide upon together. You can either go to the “Click Here to Donate” icon on the upper right of this site, of simply CLICK HERE and it will take you to the donation page. Don’t be fooled by the PayPal logo, it accepts nearly every credit card and you don’t need a PayPal account to donate! Thanks again for your continued support!

PRR Gets on ESPN Gameday

Kudos to PRR for getting some NU love on the set of ESPN Gameday this past weekend at the Swamp.  PRR is in grad school at Florida so he’s always on spreading the purple cheer in the Sunshine State. Check out the screen grab here:

PRR gets his sign on Gameday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LTP N Flag Project
Last week we had Zack Oliver’s home make the LTP N Flag Project. This week, we’ve got another stadium on the map. Thanks to George “Great” Scott, we’ve got Virginia’s Scott Stadium on the map. Check out this cool pic:

UVA is on the N Flag Map!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also have Bali, Indonesia on the map thanks to ’03 grad Mike and his now bride, Kristen. Man, when you can get a rice paddy shot it just reinforces how much I love this project. Email us at laketheposts@gmail.com with your photo and we’ll be happy to add it to the ever-bulging LTP N Flag Map!

Ubud, Indonesia - near Bali - Mike & Kristen's Honeymoon!

  • http://twitter.com/rwbluemoon Cody S

    Student support is at its peak right now, we’re filling up for every game, but we can’t do it all, especially if we’re shoved in one corner. we need help!

    • http://twitter.com/rwbluemoon Cody S

      on that note, though we should start picking to have the opponent go towards the student section in the fourth quarter. I don’t care about wind, we need the noise factor to disrupt their offense

  • http://twitter.com/RiseNU Philip R-R

    Quick note… I know that my sign was indeed on the broadcast — thanks to those who tweeted at me during the broadcast and to the Rivals board for noting it too. The photo above was taken by the Gainesville Sun. Gator fans were very nice and welcoming to the one Northwestern fan there. Those Washington State fans are REALLY dedicated! Next year in Evanston! Right?

  • Rooge

    “I’m so sick and tired of reading about fans who have been told to sit down. You know what, let’s set-up a program to text or grab security and have those people ejected and their seats taking away for being detrimental fans. I don’t care if you’re a 40-year season ticket holder, if you don’t stand up, make noise and support the team, go watch at home. Perhaps we can take some of the donation money and install ejector seats.”
    My season tickets are in the midst of football parents who definitely stand and make noise. Good. Behind me, is an elderly couple who have been season ticket holders since the Peloponnesian War. Both have arthritis and simply can’t stand for three hours. Nor can they see over my 6’1″ frame if I’m standing. So for them, I crouch just high enough to see the game through the shoulders of the parents in front of me. The point here: show some respect for those who have been loyal long before you appointed yourself congress, chancellor and constabulary of the NU fan base.

    • fashioncat

      So now the focus of fans at Ryan Field is to make sure they’re not bothering ARTHRITIC PELOPONNESIANS? Are you KIDDING ME? This is exactly why our game day crowd sucks.

      • Roger

        I tend to agree with LTP. People need to stand up and cheer. Heck, the players and often times Fitz himself turns around and begs fans to cheer on 3rd down. Sadly, I’ve actually seen security called on people who do stand up and cheer because the so called fans behind them are annoyed and often times security actually takes the side of the complianers. Just another reason the atmosphere at Ryan Field is so sub-par.

        • byebyefitz95

          Agreed. Look at Saturday. Nebraska fans got up…cheered…made noice and it totally disrupted our offence while on the field. What if our fans did that while Nebraska was on the field the whole time? Sure they outnumbered us…but we didn’t even try unless it was 3rd down. Had we ALL (I know some did…but not everyone) tried…this outcome might have been differenent.

    • DT

      Hopefully your arthritis does not flare up… Tough to crouch with that! Might I suggest a regiment of Glucosomine during the college football season?

    • CMF

      I went to the game on Saturday with my 82yo grandma. She has had season tickets for over 50 years (my grandpa was professor for 40 years at Medill). Anyway, although she only stands up about 1/2 the time everyone else does, she knows that cheering for our team is part of the fun and does not complain or tell other people to sit down even if she misses a few plays. She tells me after each game how ‘crowded’ it was at the game and that she has to get there early since her parking pass isn’t guaranteed in the West Lot – even after a game like Vandy were the stadium is 1/3 empty. I don’t have the heart to tell here we still need about 20K more wearing purple.

    • PBRCat

      I know exactly what you mean. There are some rabid fans near me who physically cannot stand up and sit down upon command or stand for an entire game. I crouch so they can see the game on many plays.

    • TexasCat

      Read what you just wrote…. Seriously. Noble as it sounds, this is comic gold if I post this quote for any other BIG fan base… Why do you think that is? News flash- its a BIG TEN FOOTBALL GAME!!

      • DT

        Texas-
        If you are responding to my comment, it’s supposed to be “comic gold”… News flash not needed Big Texan..

        • TexasCat

          Nope, directed at Rooge..
          “Behind me, is an elderly couple who have been season ticket holders
          since the Peloponnesian War. Both have arthritis and simply can’t stand
          for three hours. So
          for them, I crouch just high enough to see the game through the
          shoulders of the parents in front of me.”
          Most fans outside of Evanston would agree that this is pretty funny. But this is the face/spokesmen for the NU season ticket holder so it would be hilarious…. if it wasn’t so sad…

          • DT

            Gotcha… Agreed…

  • CrankyCat

    when you go to a Chicago Fire game, the entire area behind the goal is full of dedicated rowdies who have chosen to sit in that section. Maybe we can get NU to make a similar section or sections for the noisemakers among us (not in the endzone or tucked away though – somewhere decent). I’m in 126 and i scream my head off every game and am tired of dirty looks.

    • fashioncat

      This is a good idea.

  • NU68

    Offer free beer … attendance problem solved. Why do I have to think of everything?

  • DT

    LTP- While your approach might have worked for JFK related to the Peace Corps and other initiatives of his time period, the bromide is not applicable here… Calling out the fans, that take time to comment or even read your blog is not where the call to action and if appropriate, blame should take place…
    Once again, in all due respect (and as noted by multiple comments since the Nebraska game…) you need to call out The Athletic Department for a feckless and ineffective markting effort to recruit earnest new Northwestern game participants from immediate trade area that is indeed The Chicago Metro Market. Frankly, I’m stunned in the aftermath of this latest invasion of Ryan Field by an opposing program that you have not taken The Good Doctor Phillips or marketing whiz Polisky to task about what is no doubt a failed effort and strategy thus far… Granted, either way, Northwestern gets its cash, much like the television money from BTN and Disney, but when the QB can’t hear snap counts due to noise from the visiting fans, some heads should be rolling…
    Net/net, cut the stuff out with “us” on this blog.. Confront and correct where the attendance issues really eminate from… It starts with Phillips…

    • PBRCat

      I began attending Northwestern games in 1994 when the World Series was canceled (hat tip to Jerry Reinsdorf & the other MLB owners). In 1995, I bought my first season ticket — talk about good timing. I do not mean to bust anyone’s bubble, but the first sell out of the 1995 home schedule, which was also the first capacity crowd in several years, was against Wisconsin. The Cats shut out the Badgers 35-0. The substitutes all played during the final minutes and made the shut out hold up by keeping Wisconsin out of the end zone. This was a significant game since it allowed Northwestern to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1948 and it guaranteed the Wildcats the team’s first winning season since Alex Agase was the head coach in the early Seventies. Why such a long prologue? Well, there is an aerial photo of the game at Dyche Stadium from that October day and the East stands were filled with Wisconsin fans dressed in red. Back in that area, Northwestern had so few season ticket holders that day of game parking was sold for $10 per car. Tickets cost $20, tax included, and, I believe student tickets were free. Given the fact that history was being made more fans showed up to cheer for Northwestern each week, but the sell out crowds still contained a respectable number of visiting fans. Dyche Stadium was horribly shabby back then. The sell outs continued in 1996 and some updates and repairs were made until Pat Ryan produced the sizable donation that led to the 1996-97 off season renovations. I am not disputing any of the arguments above, but the claim that the stadium was one hundred percent Purple in 1995 was and is a myth.

      • Jimgocats93

        PBRcat you are right. I have that aerial photo in my office and sat through that rainy game loving every moment. I wondered if Barnet had instructed the ball boy to give the referees wet balls when Burton would punt. I think Bucky dropped almost every punt. Seemed like the most turnovers I had ever seen.
        Gocatsgo!

      • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

        I was there as well and I didn’t say it was all purple in 1995 – although Penn State that very year was 80% purple. You’ll correct me if I’m off by a few % points. I referenced ’96 and particularly ’97. I remember the ’96 Michigan game as being a real attendance turning point as Michigan fans did NOT have a lot of sections b/c our base had become purple. Hell, we drew 40k for Ohio that year if memory serves. Point was that the notion that an almost all purple crowd is “impossible” is wrong, b/c we’ve experienced it before.

    • PBRCat

      While I was initially pleased to see the marketing campaigns inaugurated as a means of promoting the Northwestern football program to a larger audience in greater Chicago, some of the results were less than helpful. Calling the Wildcats “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” may have correct geographically, but the team failed to deliver on the promise and it gave the Illini some helpful bulletin board material. Worse still was “Persa Strong” and the Heisman campaign. It was asking too much of a talented player to recuperate from surgery and lead the team to a championship. It turned out that Persa’s injuries were more severe than we were told and he may have done more harm to himself by suiting up and returning so soon.
      My favorite Northwestern advertising campaign was “Not Afraid to Play Overtime” which truly fit one of Randy Walker’s teams.

    • TexasCat

      Agree with everything you said… Except we as fans lack heart, NOT just numbers. If we did pack a stadium with what I have seen to be a typical NU fan, I could still turn to my buddy an have an “inside voice” conversation on 3rd down…. This is also a problem.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      @DT – perhaps you did not read my caveats about preaching to the choir. This was not meant to call out the diehards, but rather to let them know I’ve heard them. The 300th “I’m sick of being told to sit down” email combined with the aforementioned inability to hear a snap count in our own joint thanks to opposing fans equals a call to arms. It was meant as a “let’s do this ourselves”. All the billboards, ticket sales quota calls and digitial marketing pale in comparison to good ol’ face to face from brand ambassadors like, you, me and the 3000 daily readers. We can do this…

  • fashioncat

    You know what might help morale at the games and get people in seats? A game experience that remotely approaches one they’d get elsewhere in 2012. A sound system not from the mid-’90s. I mean, it’s so pathetic. The folks who do video production for the athletic department are talented, but their work is presented via comically outdated technology. I get that the university can’t just throw money at bells and whistles, but there’s not *some* money in our ginormous, historic endowment for a new system? It’s the easiest countermeasure to opposing fans taking over the field.

    • NU68

      Well … none of what you are looking for is gonna happen … so … we are back the free beer idea.

      • DT

        Always good to hear from you 68… Might you be sampling some of the promotional giveaway today?

      • byebyefitz95

        I miss the free beer…whereever did Goose Island go?

    • http://twitter.com/Smolmania Mark Smolens

      How about a free wifi network so that I could actually read CJ’s tweets that he would then be able to send out? If they can do wifi in a CTA tunnel, why can’t they do it at Ryan Field?

    • PBRCat

      The speakers above the West grandstand rows have not worked for a few years. Fix the problem or replace the speakers now! It is difficult to hear all of the announcements from a speaker column atop Randy Walker Terrace. Those people who operate the scoreboard ought to think about how the videos that they are running look to those of us nearer to midfield and the South end zone. Sometimes the graphics are near impossible to read because the lettering and the backgrounds bleed together into a blur. The statistics and out of town scores are the worst to decipher. It would be good to resume the tradition of the announcer reading selected scores to the assembled fans.

  • Nirvana91

    I was one of the non-alum “Chicago” fans that NU was targeting with their promotions. I picked up football and basketball season tickets for multiple years but have recently dropped them both. Why? Well, I ended up finally getting Bears season tickets, but there are other reasons that factored in as well. To put it bluntly, the gameday experience was lacking for both football and basketball. I have already outlined on other NU blogs why I feel this way, but the quick summary is:

    1. Both W-R and Ryan Field are uncomfortable and not good places to watch a game. Seriously, the sound is awful, the scoreboards and sound are a joke, and the legroom (I am 6 foot 4) is nonexistent. I am much more comfortable at home. The bathrooms are bad, there are no TV’s to check other games during halftime, and the selection of food at both stadiums is poor. I had end zone tickets and the angle is too low to see much of anything, and the scoreboard is too far away. Also could not hear the band.

    2. As someone who lives downtown without a car, transit is annoying. The CTA/Metra schedules do not synch up well. It appears that no extra trains are run on game days. Taking the Metra for an 11am game means you will get there either 2 hours early, or late. Taking the CTA takes FOREVER if you are going from the loop (no purple express from Belmont on weekends). Taking the CTA home can take even longer, with thousands of people cramming into the Central purple line stop for a train that runs every 10 minutes and are completely packed (yes, I know, protip: walk to Linden instead of Central).

    3. The team hasn’t won much recently, so getting a casual fan to keep coming back for this masochism is tough. How many times am I going to watch NU blow an NCAA-tournament chance before I say “forget it?”

    There are plenty of other reasons as well. I consider myself a fan but I think your criticism is a little off base here. I don’t have the incentive to go to the games – it’s big $, it’s a hassle, it’s a sub-par experience, and the team still can’t seem to beat any decent teams. Yet you criticize the fans?

    • byebyefitz95

      I agree on #2. Taking the el is shit on Saturday. You would think the CTA could have the purple line run into the city two hours before and after the games. I love going to games…but dread the CTA…the red line from Belmont sucks.

      • Nirvana91

        Might not make a huge difference but I really wish that NU could get Metra to change their Saturday schedule just a bit. For example, the outbound Metra gets to Central at 11:01 and the inbound at 10:57. Usually they are a couple minutes late. Factor in the walk, getting into the stadium, and getting to your seats, and you are well into the first quarter. If they could change the schedule by even just 20 minutes, that would make a big deal, in my opinion. Or maybe nobody is taking the Metra anyway and I’m barking up the wrong tree.

    • s

      The above comment needs to be printed out and postered all over the athletic department marketing office. I attend NU football games religiously because I’m an diehard alum/fan who lives nearby and is blessed to have a wife who is also an alum and football fan. But the gameday experience just flat out sucks. And I say that from the perspective of someone who has a long time annual tradition with a group of my now geographically spread out undergrad buddies of meeting up in a different location one weekend every fall to attend both a college and NFL game. I’ve been to lot’s of college and pro football games in lot’s of places, and I can tell you that our gameday experience is about the worst there is for anything claiming to be a “major” player. Why in the world would we expect someone like Nirvana91 to keep coming back?

    • TexasCat

      Spoken like a true fair weather fan… You guys really play fast and loose with the word “fan”… I would have less beef if you called yourself a casual observer. See Nebraska/Michigan in a down year for an accurate definition of the word “fan”, then try again. This article is spot on. Even if the truth hurts.

    • NUdone88

      Ha, love it. The facilities stink. I can’t agree with you more. More comfortable to watch at home on BTN and ESPN. Brent Musburger called Dyche/Ryan the Wrigley Field of College Football. Well, that was back in 1997 after Coach G B. The new Lake Michigan will be very, very nice … but not for GameDay experiences. Bathrooms and food have been terrible since the 70′s. My 2 pennies.

  • GTom

    As much as I wish bringing others to the stadium was the solution, I’ve been doing that for years only to eat on average two tickets a game because of last-second cancellations and / or lack of interest. I think it’s time for a different approach – counter the enrollment disparity by hooking an avid, young, and local fanbase while simultaneously building bridges to the rest of Chicago. Specifically, directly open up an expanded student section to Northeastern Illinois University (9,100 undergrad enrollment), DePaul (16,400), Loyola (9,800), Chicago State (4,500), UIC (16,900), and perhaps even Lake Forest, Saint Xavier, or (gasp) University of Chicago (the last three, however, have their own lower-division football programs and might not be amenable). Treat them the same way NU students are treated – even if that means free tickets. Give access to their student / alumni organizations to gather / tailgate. Involve their faculty and let them use access to NU games as a selling point for their school. If you got even 10% of their undergraduate population to come, it’s another 5,600 fans in the seats, and unlike NU students, most have local ties (i.e. will bring a family member or friend to a few games) and will stay local after they graduate.

    • DT

      @4d185a67db43bf99d0b0f9d090145374:disqus-
      Solid idea… I’d throw Columbia College Chicago in that group as well with over 11K undergrads and technically, no formal athletic program as Public Arts Institution..

    • http://twitter.com/RiseNU Philip R-R

      I really like this idea as well as @532bd01088b4f273940beb344c16d4cf:disqus’s idea about designated cheer sections. I think this is what LTP was going for. Get some fresh ideas to pack the place with purple. He knows we all care and it is clear when we put our collective heads together we can make something happen.

    • Nate

      As a current Loyola undergrad, I would LOVE free NU tix. Then I could finally bring some of my friends along who wonder why I’m such a lover of the Purple. I’ve had a few professors at LUC promote going to NU football games, but the students yield nothing more than a “meh” attitude towards it (unsurprising). But I like the idea.

  • BG

    I know there is a lot of passion about this topic, but I had a relatively simple idea: what about proactively offering (convincing?) more season ticket-holders the option to move to the East Side, and designating it as a more rowdy section? I know it sounds corny, but seriously, part of the problem is that all of our fans are essentially on the West side. Also, the East side is what you see on TV, and as a result, it looks ridiculous when there are two sections of purple and the rest red (or black/gold, maize/blue or whatever). Wouldn’t people sitting at the 15-20 yard line on the West side be amenable to “upgrading” to the 35 yard line on the East side? It would serve two purposes: 1) it would force opposing fans toward the ends of the stadium, and 2) it would look WAY better on TV (I now live in CA, so no longer have season tix, but did have them for 8 years, and care deeply about national perception, which was harmed this weekend’s game, during which I got texts saying it looked like a road game on TV).

    If and when the stadium ever gets renovated, maybe they could put the press box on the East side, so that the camera view is of the home side the entire game? Okay, I won’t get carried away.

    • Mark

      I’m an Eastsider and our seats are usually surrounded by opponent fans. It’s funny though, if we stand no one yells at us to sit down as the opponent fans seem to understand football spectating. The only time someone told me to sit down was at Wrigley – an NU “observer.” That is how I would actually classify many of the folks who attend NU games.

      As a non-alum I agree with the idea of opening up tickets to other schools in Chicago (that I also did not attend). Others commenting here are right – it’s not a high quality experience like going to most of the other Big Ten stadiums. And yes, all the millions rolling in on the Big Ten Channel should be used to create a modern fan experience where the sound system is good and other scores around the country are available. When my Dad and I had season tickets at Purdue in the 60′s they announced scores from around the country on the PA system at halftime and updated Big Ten scores at the quarters. So the NU game experience is 50 years behind. That’s why the smallest stadium in the Big Ten with the LARGEST area population can’t sell out. I’ve heard all the bull about Chicago being a professional sports town etc. – it’s all an excuse.

      • knickelbein5

        They used to announce scores over the intercom, and it created a great sense of comrodarery amongst the fans. We all cheered whenever Notre Dame, Illinois, or Ohio State was losing it was great! Anyone else remember that? Anyone know why they stopped doing that?

        • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

          The lack of score updates has been very noticeable. With the 1-2 combo of no cell phone reception it is infuriating.

  • byebyefitz95

    Wow…best post I have ever read. The sitting down in front line kills me every game. A friend of mine has season tickets and said before Saturday’s games “I have maybe spent 17 min in the stadium all season…why be yelled at to sit down when the parking lot is more fun.” They need to make a section strictly sitting. Instruct people who order season tickets that the section they want “may be noisy and full of standing loud fans.” This will encourage them to switch to the golf section you speak of. Maybe make the upper deck sitting only along with sections 122, 123 in the lower bowl. This way people can stand, make noise and have fun. It is a football game after all.

  • RossAndGary

    As for special cheering sections, I have been petitioning my friends with season tickets (I live in New York) to go to an emptier area of the stadium, maybe the upper deck, and set up a rowdy fan cheering section. They usually sit around the student section, but I think the stadium experience would be improved with pockets of intensity being spread about the stadium. You could get a whole bunch of people on the upper deck, call it the Cardiac Ward or something, and show that there are fans other than students who really give a damn. Maybe it will inspire others to follow.

    Please, anyone reading this, feel free to do this or modify it however you please. Watching on TV, there seems to be energy in the student section, but the stadium seems dead everywhere else. Something new could give the TV cameras something to shoot and maybe draw other people.

    Something like this won’t solve all the problems regarding the attendance issues, but you gotta start somewhere.

    • NG

      This is a fantastic idea. Definitely think we need to designate cheering sections when season tickets are assigned starting with next year. As a young alum, I can’t imagine sitting anywhere else but the student section area as the rest of the stadium is one of the worst gameday experiences in college (having been to many stadiums around the Big Ten as well as Baton Rouge). Yes, we will not compare to state schools home crowds that have established traditions, but our attendance is on the upswing and we could use our loudest, dedicated fans to be spread out throughout the stadium. Before I would even adhere to this though, we would greatly need to improve our sound system. You can barely hear the band 2 sections away–imagine trying to sing the fight song in tune if on the other side of the stadium! Singing the fight song in unison with other people who are in to the game is one of the best parts of gamedays…unfortunately that only tends to occur in sections 129-134.

      Also, couldn’t agree more that the TV cameras seeing nothing but a sea of red makes us look doubly pathetic. Spread season ticket holders out! And please move the designated young alum section out of the absolute corner of the stadium. Makes no sense to assign the worst seats in the house to some of your most devoted (and loudest) fans.

      • bandcat

        Started going to NU games in 1994 sitting on the East Side. NUMB to my recollection could be heard better in general from that side of the field.. I agree that you can barely hear the band on the west side unless you are relatively close.. Move the band and student section as close to the fifty on the Eastside as possible..I think they will be better heard and can lead the charge.Go U NU!!! Any Engineers available to take a look at this? While we are at it The BTN sucks in the coverage they give to any of the bands.. The marching bands in our conference are all terrific and a big part of the gameday experience that is grossly overlooked…Had to get that in as a Bando….Go Cats!!!!!

        • Brent

          I am a nebraska fan trying to make the B1G rounds. My wife and I had a great time at the game and would have win/lose at the end. I think your article is pretty spot on. Riding the CTA red up to the stadium it was very apparent we had more fans in the area than NW did. When we got the Ryan Field, not a bad seat in the house btw, the first thing my wife said was “wow…they dont even have stadium lights”. I don’t know if Ryan field is a historic landmark or something…but with the direction your team is headed you would think they would start to make some serious investment in the program.

          Thanks for having us. The cats are my second favorite B1G team. I will cheer for you anytime you’re not playing us. Do us a solid and beat Michigan later this year.
          GBR

  • PissedNUFan

    Within minutes of getting to my seats I was told to sit down by a fellow NU fan.

    • Ryan

      My father once got into a near fight with the guy behind him because he was so ticked off that the guy told him to sit down. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but the point is people need to understand football behavior. If we had a good sound system I’d suggest a taped message from Coach Fitz or the team that plays just seconds before kickoff that tells everyone to stand up and get pumped for the game.

  • bandcat

    Why not try the student section and the band on the East side stands.. On the West side I think you could definitely hear the band much better.. NCAA rules will not allow amplification of the band…Our sound system way over due for a replacement.

  • cece

    OMFreakin’G…..stop focusing on who stands up and down and get to the heart of the matter…..getting purple, ANY purple, in the seats. fill it up with purple, the rest will work itself out. can’t deal with people telling you to sit down? learn how to tell them to stand up, it’s the real world.

    the difficult thing is filling those stands. sorry Crain’s, the team did not let Dr. Phillips down. Dr. Phillips let down the team. time to try a new plan cause this one was a huge Tribune photo of red major embarrassment. wtf.

    • cece

      this is the kind of comment that should be banned. it is abusive.

      • cece

        and since we certainly would not allow racism on the board, right, why is this outright sexism allowed?

      • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

        In the future email me. i’ve repeatedly warned him. I don’t get to monitor every comment all the time.

        • cece

          thanks. nice to have support against the bullying.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      You missed the point of the post. Yes, I mentioned the fact that people don’t make noise, but it was to the larger point of the post of a call to action for fans. The point is marketing campaigns don’t work. Peer to peer influence does and creating a good gameday fan environment as well is on us. It all goes together.

  • Nate

    NU must get creative, with a focus on the non-alum fan. The “Chicago’s B1G Team” motto has fallen on deaf ears.
    Like Nirvana91 said, RF and W-R are far from glamorous facilties, getting there is no picnic and the teams continue to fold when the spotlight is on. Moving NU athletics (namely fball and mbball) in the direction of consistent national relevance is going to take an all hands on deck approach: from the fans/alums, to the Athletic Dept. and of course to the players and coaches.
    The ship is turning in the right direction, but there is much work to be done in order for the ship to be going the right way forever. I am certian that one day, the dream of RF and W-R being packed every game with Purple Pride to witness teams that consistently compete for B1G championships becomes a reality.

  • NUBobby95

    This is the best post I have seen regarding this issue. I sit in the upper area of 127 and almost got kicked out of the Vandy game for cheering too loud and begging people to stand up and make noise. Are freakin kidding me? How many times have you seen a crowd influence a refs call? Might have helped on that 3rd down non-PI call. If Jim Phillips reads this he can respond to provide solutions. I live on the North Shore and we need to cut ties with a lot of these blue bloods up here. They have no passion. Also, how about opening some parking spots in the lots for younger alums? Create a stronger game day atmosphere. How many people just roll in for the game and add nothing to the Gameday experience?

  • io_a sucks balls

    couldn’t agree more with this post and there are some really good ideas in this comment section. well done. flying in for this game, i am out for blood.

  • Henry in CT

    Whoever mentioned the word ‘masochism’ has it right on. I almost dread games like last week because I know it is going to be a gutwrenching experience but I can’t help myself from watching. And of course we usually lose, often in the most horrible way possible. Even when we win it seems hardly worth the angina. Usually when it seems hopeless and I know I’m just being set up for a bad experience I make sure I have something else really good to planned but I do check to see how it is going and since it is usually close I get sucked in again. I went to a few games when I was a student and it was pretty bad. The team and the game experience both sucked and I can understand why no one goes. This year we are all stuck with watching to the bitter end because given the lucky start we could end up 8-4 and get a good bowl game. And when it is over it will almost be a relief.

    • TexasCat

      “This year we are all stuck with watching to the bitter end because given
      the lucky start we could end up 8-4 and get a good bowl game. And when
      it is over it will almost be a relief.”
      WOW……. Turn down that enthusiasm. Are you really upset because you have an improved team that competes EVERY game?…. SMH.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.mcgrath.31508 Tom McGrath

    …here’s the plan. nu needs more tailgating space. have the marketing dept. sell the tailgating experience. how do u do that? use the golf course more. there are at least 6 more holes that could be utilized. we’re on the north golf course lot and it’s barely 1/4 full of it’s capacity. our kids have a great time. there is plenty of room to play football, soccer, vb. heck we bring our clubs and have pitch/putt contest. sell this to young families in chicago area. have a parking pass a part of a 4 tix package. have the east lot tailgate only. let people know u can’t leave until 1 hr after game. i see so many people rush to get in their car to leave. fine. have them park over on a designated golf course hole.
    lastly, i hate all this ‘gotta stand’ crap. fine if you want to stand the entire game and go crazy, yeah, have the upper deck the ‘wild & crazy’ area. i can sit and scream and whistle my rearend off pretty darn good while i’m sitting down. sure there are certain times to stand but not as much as all you think. there is nothing more annoying than the one guy who has to stand all the time and look like a complete idiot.

    • Ron

      Wondering, is it going to get worse? Trying to interpret the plan for the new facilities, it appears to include a multi-level parking structure where the on-campus tailgating currently takes place. Am I reading it correctly? Is this going to knock out existing tailgating? And if so, what are they thinking?

  • PhillyCat17

    Hey guys. Long time reader, first time writer. As an alum and, like many of you, a fellow die-hard fan, this subject definitely hits home with me. I really love some of the ideas that you all have mentioned to help the game-day experience, especially the ones involving the designation of a loud cheering section or the relocation of the students, band, and/or young alum section. I don’t know how feasible it is, but I would love to somehow have our comments forwarded to the NU Athletic Office.

    I’ve been to many games (as a student and alum), and watched many on TV. I HATE the way that the camera shows the east stands (which are louder than our fans) as they are usually filled with away colors. It’s definitely a turn-off to prospective players and fans. If only those sections, or maybe the south end zone could be designated as a rowdy section, we could take a step towards making Ryan Field a true home field advantage.

    I love the reference that one of you made to the fans of the Chicago Fire games. I’d encourage you to also search for Seattle Sounders fans on YouTube. I know that college football is different from soccer, but I wish that we could borrow some of their enthusiasm as those fans stand, jump, sing, and chant all game.

    I know there isn’t an enormous following of Wildcat football, but I’m sure that some of the most passionate fans (many of whom read this blog) would love to join in one section and make noise the entire game. It pains me when you see the players and Fitz beg fans in the west stands to cheer and you can see on TV that they’re barely standing up to clap.

    I unfortunately don’t live in Chicago anymore, but I would really look forward to coming back to Evanston once or twice per season, especially to get tickets in the rowdy section, a section that could be THE place to “sit” if the idea takes off.

  • TexasCat

    Spot on… People need to realize this issue must be factored into the equation in order to solve our big picture problem. Bottom Line, UNLESS someone can point to the program that has ever existed that excelled with our level of “fan support” then this one should be easy. No winning program in America has a game day/stadium experience like ours. NU fans are smart, but not smart enough to reinvent the wheel. Great programs have great fans even in an off year. NU fans have bad fan support when they are in the chase… This is not complicated stuff, our teams basically have games away, and games at a “neutral site” at best.
    I do agree that free beer, better speakers, and other perks could help get people going. But even if we pack the stadium, we will still need 40,000 heart transplants (student section excluded) before the rest of us can affect a game the way we saw Nebraska fans affect the game on Saturday IN OUR HOUSE, hope we were taking notes. We do our team a disservice. Lets not dodge our part in the outcome of games like this… There is PLENTY of blame to go around.

  • vaudvillain

    I like several of the suggestions listed so far:

    1-Moving the press box to the east side. Yeah, probably won’t happen. The view looking east is prettier than the view looking west. But if we’re having problems putting purple everywhere, then we should try to have cameras pointing toward where there’s the most of it.

    2-Designated cheer/rowdy sections. Yes. But unlike some (who have suggested putting them in the upper level), I think our rowdies need to be as close to the field as possible, especially by the endzones.

    3-Student tickets for other Chicago colleges/universities. Sure, why not? If we want to call ourselves /Chicago’s/ B1G Team, then it makes sense to draw in as many /Chicago/ students as we can.

    4-Coordinate with the Metra. Please. I live in Rogers Park, so the commute’s not awful. But having the Metra run at times that would be even vaguely convenient for games would be huge.

    5-Technology. Speakers you can hear. Screens you can see. Timely score updates from around the conference. Wifi.

  • TypeO

    I am an alum and diehard fan (former season ticket holder) who lives out of state but still attends 1-3 games per year. The lack of fan support has eaten at me for years. I also travel the country extensively on business. My perception is that NU has a better following and more awareness nationally than in Chicago. Unfortunate but very real. Thus, you get very respectable bowl attendance, but not at home. Chicago is a bad college sports town. Always has been. All the locals care about is da Bears and Bulls and Sox and Cubs. Granted the game-day experience could be improved, but why anyone would shell out several hundred bucks to sit through a Bears game is beyond me.

    • PBRCat

      Actually, there were times when the bowl eligible Wildcat teams were a damned sight more entertaining then the Bears. I am pleased to see the passion being displayed, progress has been made, but expectations are much higher now as they should be. A generation of Northwestern players from the Dark Ages would have loved to see 20,000 spectators in the stands for home games, but that is no longer acceptable.
      It does irk me to see those Northwestern students on campus who do not make plans to put aside their books for a few hours during home football games. These types still exist.

  • das420

    What’s with all the fuss about the requests to sit down? Is it not possible to make just as much noise sitting as it is standing? Look, I’m about as insane of a Wildcat fan as there is; I scream myself hoarse and understand when it’s really time to make some noise. I don’t mind people standing and I’ll stand countless times myself when it’s not an impediment to others around me. Having said that, when someone asks if I can sit down (and, generally, such requests come from older fans who simply aren’t as comfortable standing as much), I sit down. And, when I do sit down I’m as much of a fan and make as much noise as I would have while standing (this is really not hard).
    You see, I could turn around and say things like “why don’t you stand” or “why don’t you be a real fan”, but, in my opinion, that would basically make me an obnoxious asshole with little regard for the people around him. Because, it is possible to practice a little common courtesy while still carrying on like a crazy, rabid fan cheering for your team.
    And, make no mistake, this is not something that is specific to NU .My family has had Bears Season tickets for about 50 years and the same kind of “stand/don’t stand” arguments happen all the time around us. What generally happens is the “don’t stand” crowd wins out (i know what a tragedy for mouth-breathing “superfans” everywhere), but, having said that, I’ve never once noticed any discernible difference in the decibel level once people took their seats.

  • PDXCat

    We should designate the entire stadium a cheering-only section.

    The fact that there is so much discussion of a designated “cheering” section saddens me. There are smoking areas at airports, handicapped seating areas at stadiums, “family” sections at restaurants. Designated areas to cater to niche groups, if you will. We need to designate an area for where a small portion of the fans want to actively participate in the game?!?! I think the term pathetic can’t do justice to this. I am fine with not swearing around a group of 6-year olds (though maybe I’d scream “you suck, ref” after a missed PI call or, say, a non-call on an obvious safety). I don’t feel obliged to show my back side to an 87-year old couple behind me. However, if you’re 87 and can make it to the game, then suck it up. This ain’t Canasta night at the Villages in Orlando. If you want to go to a college football game, expect people to stand and cheer for the home team. This ain’t tennis. It’s football. To have people harassed for trying to urge their team on is pathetic. Recruits who attend games aren’t put off my the lack of choices at the concession stand or the disappearance of the Walls of Urine in the men’s room. How would it feel to be a high school stud whose fan base goes crazy every time they hit the field (I’ve been to many Mt. Carmel games, grew up a Michigan fan, have attended some games at Boles Academy in Jacksonville, FL) then you sit in the stands while your potential team runs out to seated golf claps?

    Stadiums are for standing, screaming, face paint, and the occasional “bad word”. Sitting politely, enjoying your Cobb salad, and yelling “bully!” every so often is for your home theatre in Winnetka.

  • GoU_NU

    We have an attendance problem. Attendance is driven by people buying tickets. Not enough people are buying tickets. Reduce ticket prices (simple market economics).

    I know it’s insane for any business to do this, but something like a university could probably do it… give away free tickets. I love the students of other universities… create fans of them when they WANT to go tailgate and watch football and they’ll become lifers.

    Love the golf lot idea, but I tailgate way more than 3 hours before the game. I was just in Minnesota and all those lots open at 7 AM for every game regardless of kickoff. Do that.

    Capital investments: sound system (COMPLETE revamp) and new video board. Convince Evanston to let us build up a big one at the south end of the stadium.

    Band: you’re never going to hear them. I’m a NUMBalum, I love the band, but the stadium acoustics are terrible. It’s too open. There are too few brass instruments. Bands can’t be amplified in the NCAA, as pointed out previously.

    I like the idea of moving west seats to the east. Just basically flip all the season tickets, the student section, and the band.

    Seriously though, free tickets. Get transportation to the other schools’ campuses (large purple buses??). Get them cheap jerseys and tshirts. Get them in the door, come up with a few standard cheers (stadium wide LET’S… GO…. CATS… in a circle) and build from there. Gotta get people in.

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Northwestern0000
Wisconsin0000
Minnesota0000
Nebraska0000
Purdue0000
Iowa0000
Illinois0000

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Indiana0000
Maryland0000
Michigan0000
Michigan State0000
Ohio State0000
Penn State0000
Rutgers0000