Wildcat of the Week: Jim Phillips

Sorry Wildcat of the Week is out so late. We are already halfway through this week and so it feels weird to talk about last week. Exam week makes you push things around (not for NU, though… exam week is next week for them). We will have some thoughts on the Wildcats who made football season so great later on this week and Wildcat of the Quarter will be out in a couple of weeks.

But, better late than never.

So, with the late post, I am going a little unorthodox with the Wildcat of the Week. I am going with Director of Sports and Recreation Jim Phillips.

Yes, ultimately, Phillips’ week ended in disappointment (somewhat) with Northwestern falling to the Capital One Bowl. But very realistically, the Wildcats were going to be the first pick for the Big Ten’s bowl lineup outside the BCS. Think about that for a moment. That seemed impossible at the beginning of the year certainly.

Yet, there Northwestern was Saturday night and Sunday morning following Nebraska’s loss in a golden position for a marquee bowl game against the presumptive Heisman winner. Things outside of Phillips’ control stepped in to prevent it from happening. Northwestern “settled” for the Gator Bowl, a matchup with less luster but an opponent that is perhaps a bit more beatable than Georgia.

No matter the result, Phillips was no doubt working the phones and doing everything he can to represent Northwestern and put the team in the best position. Honestly, we as fans have no idea the amount of work Phillips is probably doing at all times to sell Northwestern.

It was a busy weekend for Phillips. I doubt he can afford to take a weekend off even though he deserves one.

Consider this award an early thank you for all the work he has done and an early celebration of a great start to the athletic season. Fall sports saw football go 9-3, field hockey gain a top-20 ranking, men’s soccer go to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament among others. We will have a fuller recap of that in the coming weeks.

Honorable Mentions

Mikela Goldstein, Fencing — Goldstein was one of three fencers to win a gold medal at the Illinois qualifier for the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships last weekend. She was one of six fencers to qualify for the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships. Goldstein was the top finisher in the women’s foil, Haley Hart won the women’s epee and Cara Frank won the sabre competition. Yes, it is quite the start to the fencing season as new fencers appear set to step up for the Cats.

Jeff Budzien, Football — Northwestern has had a shaky history with kicking in the past few years. Not that the kickers like Joel Howells, Amado Villareal or Stefan Demos were bad. There were inconsistent. I am trying to be nice. Fan frustration with special teams and kicking always seemed to be an issue every season. It does not feel that way anymore. Jeff Budzien has calmed our nerves when the team gets into field goal range. Budzien was named the co-Big Ten kicker of the year and the Big Ten’s coaches named him to the All-Big Ten first team. Budzien was 17 for 18 on field goals this year, with his only miss being a 53-yard attempt against Nebraska.

Maggie Lyon, Women’s Basketball — Lyon was named the Big Ten’s freshman of the week last week after averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in two games last week. That included a 16-point effort in a come-from-behind win at Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. She had four of NU’s nine 3-pointers in the game. Lyon has gotten off to a strong start to her career, scoring in double figures in all seven of the Wildcats games so far this season. She is second on the team in scoring. Pretty solid start to her freshman campaign.

  • PurpleRain

    Quick question: What are our precise numbers of tickets sold for each of the bowls we have gone to, and what was our allotment for each of those bowls? And how does our sell-through compare to our opponents in the same games, and to bowl-bound teams generally?

    I have seen lots of comments indicating that we have “traveled well” and that we should buy through NU to show that the fan base will represent in the seats. But what are the actual numbers?

    • Don’t know the exact numbers. Will try to get from NU. Actual butts in seats vs ticket sold is not a # we’ll get. NU sells out its allotment as boosters step in and buy unsold tickets, hence why bowls love us. It’s about the money.

      • PurpleRain

        Thanks for checking, LTP. Agreed that it is about the $. So it would be helpful to know if NU selling out its allotment is a real differentiator (e.g. do other school’s boosters do the same). I’m not quite sure it is, but would appreciate knowing the facts.

        Also, I would expect the bowls get a cut of the concessions at the game, so they might factor in how well the allotment “shows up” to determine the total economic value provided by the school. Most promoters use a simple $/head metric for concession and merchandise gross. In this age of scanning tickets at entry, the data of how well our allotment results in an actual person in attendance is readily available to the venue (whether they disclose is another matter).

    • Ron

      I’m not so sure that’s really a “quick” question. I’ve seen it often written that we’ve sold out our allotment in the past. I’ve also seen it written in the last few days that NU was possibly prepared to use its own funds to buy out the allotment for this year’s bowl, if necessary. (Where do the tickets go in that instance? After this year’s Nebraska game, I wouldn’t make any assumptions). So, who knows whether that’s what has happened in the past. As a private institution, they don’t have to disclose anything to anyone…

  • I have conspiracy theory on this. I believe Fitz got the EXACT draw he wanted and that JP very much worked the system to get what his coach wanted. My hunch is that Delany and JP had some conversations to help map things out. Complete speculation. Mississippi State is the absolute best draw we could’ve had in ANY of the bowls.

    • DT


    • Noah

      While we all wish for C1, Phillips and Fitz know that strategically, for the good of the program, getting a W is far more important than which bowl it is in. Any W keeps us in the top 25, any L likely takes us out.

      JP knew exactly what he was doing, and had NU’s best interests at heart. Whether Gator was that pick or not, we know 2 things: 1) were in a great position to win, and 2) Philips not only works hard for Northwestern, but he usually gets what he wants

      • DT

        You and LTP miss one key name in your scenario being Mike Slive… None of this stuff or the match up favorable to both NU and MSU gets done without his blessing… Let’s not forget MSU has an AD as well, guys..

        • CatInTheHat

          So you think that NU and MSU worked together to create matchups favorable to both and quietly encouraged the Cap One to look elswhere? Interesting, though I’m not sure I buy all of these intriguing theories. I was up all night before bowl selection trying to read the tea leaves, and I went to bed at around 5:00 a.m. fairly convinced that we’d be looking at a Cap One bid the next morning. I’m thrilled with the matchup but sick to my stomach over the conference shenanigans that ended up handing it to us.

          • DT

            Cat– I truly think these conferences, particularly The Ten and SEC in this case given the relationship and common goals for World Domination that Slive and Delany share, lend itself to “Seeding” of sorts if possible… “Win-Win” exists on this match up for many reasons including some parity on the field.. MSU is not the same team that beat Michigan for instance by aprox. 30 points in this bowl only 2 years ago…

          • CatInTheHat

            The team can ill afford to take MSU lightly, but based on their non-con schedule and their performance in the SEC, I think they’re a Minnesota-level team.

          • DT

            Frankly, I’ve only seen them play a cume one full game this year… They were certainly outclassed by Texas A&M… That said, they were far more athletic than Minnesota… Not sure what that means against NU in this case, except to say, from what I saw of them–The Bulldogs will be all that NU can handle and possibly more..
            I’d say MSU, Vandy and Ole Miss all play a level of ball allied to NU, and could be W-L either way on any given day they would play…
            Why the match up is intriguing getting beyond the emotion and high stakes for NU to win a bowl game…

          • CatInTheHat

            Offensively, they are more potent than a Minnesota, but given what I know of their D, we are too fast for them. Fitz MUST use Colter like he used him vs. Indana, and NOT like he misused him vs. PSU. If that happens, I like our chances.

          • DT

            You always make good points, Cat.. That said, my take away from the A&M game was that they lacked discipline and implementation, not speed… That said, Johnny Football made a number of teams look bad this year…

            Seemingly, if you ask folks that know the SEC well, many claim MSU is the second best team in the state.. Hard to argue with that after the last game and further, what Ole Miss did against LSU at Baton Rouge the week before going 6-6 at that… My gut would say, better we are playing the 8-4 team than the 6-6 team, based on the last couple games Ole Miss played…

            Anyway, I’m looking forward to the game… I like the match up and give NU an earnest shot at winning, albeit, not the least bit confident for obvious reasons..

          • CatInTheHat

            Are you going, DT?

          • DT

            No, I’m not… In front of the Big Screen…

    • I like your conspiracy theory optimism, LTP! My belief is that JP gained some political capital for the next bowl season. The favor of “slipping” so to speak will come back around the next time NU is up for the Cap One. Cap One clearly loves us a lot. They will help us get back there when the time comes.

  • Paul K

    More baseless speculation that UW is looking at Fitz as head coach:

    • lol, Fitz is not going to Wisconsin. Silly Badgers.