Jim Phillips has his bowl pitch down to a science. He can spout off our attractive stats of bowl game attendance figures. He’s got the demographics of the fan base down pat. He talks about the national fan base and our significant presence in major markets. But, nothing communicates the rising tide of traveling Wildcat parties like visuals. Thanks to those of you who sent in the photos, we can now share some fodder that can make our VP of Athletics & Recreation’s December lobbying job that much easier. We still have a long way to go to even pat ourselves on the back and become a force like Ohio State and Nebraska when it comes to invading enemy territory, but the trend is definitely heading in a positive direction.
Let’s start with the most authentic feedback from the ‘Cats invasion of Cal. Bruce Jenkins, a San Francisco Chronicle writer, served up this commentary about the Northwestern fan base overtaking part of Berkeley on Saturday:
Walking the streets of Berkeley before Cal’s football opener Saturday night, I felt suddenly disoriented. Underhill Field, at the corner of Channing and College, had been transformed into a full-blown Northwestern headquarters.
This was no fly-by-night operation. It was organized with great precision, complete with an elaborate buffet, cocktail bar, big-screen television and enough tables and chairs for at least 500 people.
The place was packed with alumni, a festival of purple and white. I asked one of the revelers if this was a common on-the-road scene, and he said, “We’ve got a lot of alumni in the Bay Area – but, yeah, pretty much.”
When San Jose State hosted Sacramento State on Thursday night, there might have been 38 people who made the drive down from Sacramento. Northwestern, just outside Chicago, brought its own restaurant. – Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 1, 2013
I’ve since learned from Northwestern officials that the official NU tailgate drew 1500 fans, the largest road game tailgate since the 1996 Rose Bowl. H/T to Andrew Charles Thompson for this photo of the festivities:
Also, another Wildcat Sailgate took place in the Bay Area. Ian Paisley sent us some photos and this brief recap of the successful venture:
The best part of the fan experience, was of course, the game. Sure, the whining can still be heard from Cal fans, but as a viewer, I was really impressed by the ‘Cats corner presence at Memorial Stadium. The ESPN announce team referred to the Wildcat representation as “a smattering”, but NJCats, who emailed me this picture, estimated the crowd to be in the 6,000-8,000 range based on the specific sections NU fans occupied relative to the percentage of the 58,000 fans in attendance.
The significant uptick in Wildcat road game travel is an exciting and positive trend. Especially when you consider how much flack we get for not being able to pack our own stadium with all purple. While we have a long way to go on the Ryan Field front, our reputation for non-conference travel will continue to bolster Dr. Phillips’ lobbying efforts. Although, if we can simply can continue to win, our bowl destination will be made for us. Perhaps back in the Golden State.
One fan wrote to me and said in the postgame celebration, Fitz had the entire team run to the corner of the stadium to sing the fight song. Fitz wasn’t pleased with the volume, so he started over and had the fans do it again. Practice makes perfect.
I missed the boat with a really neat lead-up story by Northwestern alum and San Jose Mercury News writer, Mark Purdy. Purdy took the Pappy Waldorf tie-in and took it to a whole new level, including a great trivia question and getting Fitz to weigh in on his perspective of the ‘Cats coach he recently eclipsed to earn all-time winningest coach in Evanston.