The B1G Picture

The past two days have been surreal. Thanks to your generous outpouring of support, I’m at a loss of words based on the comments, flood of emails and even calls from devoted readers and fellow Wildcat diehards. I’m not sure you’ll ever know how much that support will mean to me – forever. After back-to-back posts explaining the end of the LTP run (Closing Time – Part I here, Closing Time – Part II here) it is time to move forward and make the most of our limited time left.

With one week left of posts and a table full of sticky notes that could be filed under “posts I need to do” there won’t be enough time to attend to, I figured I would share some of my ideas and solicit ones that you the readers would like to see. Let’s start with the ones I’m committed to doing, in no particular order:

1) The NU Football Brand – Currently, Fitz has wrapped himself in a military-themed brand. From the Navy Seals integration in to the off-season workouts to the adoption of Great Lakes Naval Base as a practice venue all the way down to his language, most radically, “Embrace the suck.” While I respect the military, I don’t think this is the right brand strategy for Fitz.  I will go deep in to my proposal for what is.

Don't look now, but Duke is starting to pass NU in the like-minded competitor category.
Don’t look now, but Duke is starting to pass NU in the like-minded competitor category.

2) Like-minded school status – Stanford, Duke, Notre Dame, Boston College, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt- we can all debate who’s on the list and who’s off the list, but there has been a quantum shift among the academics first set of competition. Assessing where NU falls in this group and how the arrows are pointing for the competition and what it all means for us is on my to-do list.

How will Jim Harbaugh impact Northwestern - both directly and indirectly?
How will Jim Harbaugh impact Northwestern – both directly and indirectly?

3) The Harbaugh effect – on the Big Ten and more specifically on Northwestern. What does it mean on the surface and what does it really mean when you peel back the layers to this national news-setting get.

4) College Football Playoff – I can call this my 1994 redux. My senior year in college a buddy of mine rallied a bunch of friends at lunch and we made a Northwestern football list of the things we thought we’d probably never see in our lifetime. The list included such far-fetched concepts as “a sold out Dyche Stadium” and “Keith Jackson calling a game at Dyche” along with the more obvious “NU in the Rose Bowl” and “Big Ten Championships”. The year 1995 checked every item off the list (within 7 months) with one exception – a national title. If the College Football Playoff was in effect in 1995, Northwestern would have been in it (we were ranked #3 at the end of the season).  It begs the question for a new “in our lifetime” list. We’re going to start with Indy.

5) Pull the curtain back – Just how did the content get done? How did I do it. With whom did I associate to get insights and check the pulse? What were the great, unexpected moments that happened behind the scenes? What unexpected relationships did I realize?

6) Best of – This is a no -brainer. The best purple mafia posts. My personal favorite posts. The best LTP NU Flag map submissions. This is likely a month’s worth of posts, but you’ll get them in rapid-fire fashion.

7)The LTP influence – What behind the scenes impact did you have without knowing it? Not only at Northwestern but with content that was produced on behalf of the Big Ten or BTN? What lies ahead? Hmmm….

That’s the gist of the things on the top of my list. There are countless posts I didn’t write. I never got to Stephen Colbert, Joe Girardi, Daniel Pink or Seth Meyers for Purple Mafia Profiles. I never got the Willie the Wildcat alumni feature cranking. I never got weekly podcasts or video chats going. The list of what I didn’t do sure outweighs what I did get done.

I really don’t want to spend too much time hand-wringing over the 2015 depth chart (great on “D”, major concerns on “O”), the lack of coaching changes or even the competition for the upcoming year. With a week to go, I’d love to stay big picture on posts that will stand the test of time and be fun to look back at in a year, five years and longer.

So now I turn it over to you. What are the posts that you’ve been hoping for and with one week left just can’t go without out. I’ll use the comments section as the sounding board, but feel free to email me at laketheposts@gmail.com as well. In the meantime, you know what I’ll be working on. The Northwestern football brand is first up.

 

 

  • Jess

    I would love a Jack Marshall update. How are we going to get his score predictions and awesome drawings without LTP?

    • LTP

      Jack’s mom is none too pleased with LTP these days. We will find a platform for his picks. We have too. Thanks for the note and will be sure to include an update.

      • maybe the guys at Inside NU could step up? They teamed up with you on take the kids to a game last fall.

  • Bela Barner

    My most immediate concern about the Harbaugh hire is Grant Perry, whom I think would very seriously consider an offer from UM were it to materialize. And I think UM would be wise to offer. Hopefully Grant commits to the Cats. I think he is a fine player and a great addition to the Cats.

  • Woody6

    Forgive me for having mistakenly posted this “Big Picture”post yesterday, buried and probably lost in the midst of all the wonderful, so well deserved plaudits and goodbyes to LTP. I should have waited until LTP asked for“The Big Picture”posts. So, here it is where it belongs:
    _______________

    A CRUCIAL BIG PICTURE PERSPECTIVE:

    2015 NU Football Reality Check: Upcoming B1G era of titans: Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, and Mark Dantonio:

    So, what’s the outlook for us in this new era? Well, to be blunt, it’s bleak.

    Principally, because our coach, Pat Fitzgerald, has shown he’s not a competent Big Ten coach. Proof: In 9 seasons he has lost substantially more conference games (12) than he has won. His record is 30-42, replete with many losses from being embarrassingly out-coached in second halves. Dantonio, for one, has done this to Fitz numerous times. Add to that, Fitz is consistently inconsistent, erratic. Examples: in 2011 he lost to Army but beat Nebraska. In 2014, he lost to NIU, beat Notre Dame, and then lost to Illinois. The list could go on.

    Yet it appears our administration/trustees (“ADM”) ignore such realities. And If not explicitly, implicitly by its inaction, it’s saying Fitz’s Big Ten record doesn’t say what it really shouts: He has a 2 million-plus-a-year job that is way beyond his ken.

    And the ADM‘s silence on this leaves us alums and fans to infer that the ADM (1) doesn’t give a hoot, (2) is canonizing Fitz as a necessary PR ambassador, or (3) thinks he needs more time to develop; 9 years is not enough.

    Well, with all due respect to our esteemed ADM, if any of those applies, woe’s us.

    The above said, here’s what things really boil down to: In biting the bullet on Fitz, the ADM continues to do what it has done for 50 years or so with a few exceptions. That is, in contrast to most Division I schools, it gives its athletic programs, especially the football and basketball ones, minimal-financial support.

    How come? Well, it appears the ADM’s thinking is that to support athletic programs like most schools do, it would have to use funds that could better serve academic purposes.

    Now, in the days before the Big Ten Network (BTN), that reasoning was commendable and appropriate. But today considering the 25-30 million the BTN annually plunks into NU coffers plus the additional millions the new playoff system likely will soon bring, this policy no longer makes sense.

    In fact, if the ADM continues to follow it, it could very well kill the goose that lays the golden egg. That is, to not use this BTN cash cow to maintain the athletic programs that generate it, by providing them up-to-date facilities and excellence in coaching could eventually run the well dry. In these radically changing times in college sports, the future could surprise.

    Furthermore, Northwestern making inferior, inadequate efforts in anything it undertakes, flies in the face of the excellence, which for 164 years the university has always stood for and pursued.

    Those things said, let’s focus on the Fitz problem:

    If we don’t do something about replacing him, we will soon to be on the path to a new dark age. Oh sure, it won’t be nearly as bad as last century’s, but it’s almost a sure bet that if we keep Fitz, the odds are, we’ll almost always be ensconced in the bottom rungs of the conference.

    So what should be done? With BTN money Fitz should be bought out, or persuaded to keep his word to step down and take another job with NU (see below re his 2012 words).

    Now considering how critical this need for action is, it’s difficult to understand, why and how the ADM seemingly overlooks that Northwestern athletics are a 25-30 million dollar a year business.

    And business is business, or should be. Accordingly, this means at times you have to do hard things, like clean house.

    That’s exactly what the Chicago Bears just did. But because NU is a non-profit organization with billions in endowment, we think we’re financially immortal. We tend to think we don’t have to do necessary things like clean house; we can give away the farm and do so ad infinitum.

    But you can bet the barn that if an individual ADM member owned a business, which had a person running it who was over his head, he’d be shown the door.

    But of course, our ADM is a group. And since tradition and the past are prologue, it’s likely our ADM will keep Fitz. After all he’s an NU hero. And so what if we enter a new dark age. So what if we’re rutted in the bottom third of the conference for years to come. So what, if we look misguided, absurd by taking in BTN millions and refusing to reinvest it in our programs to keep us competitive. So what if attendance plummets. So what when Ryan Field is ever full, it’s with an opponent’s fans. So what if Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan compared to other schools’ facilities look rundown, outdated. So, what if their parking areas abound with potholes. So, what if our concessions stands and their offerings for the most part are lousy. So what if Ryan Field’s speaker system is ancient, inadequate. So what if we promise to build a new facility and five years later haven’t turned a spade. So what if season ticket sales hit the pits. So what if on national TV for weeks on end at times we look pathetic with subpar efforts. So what if Northwestern is ridiculed, disrespected, and panned in the media.

    What’s our typical response to such things? A haughty, “Hey, we’re Northwestern.”

    Now hopefully the above “so what” allegations are taken in the vein they’re intended: not to rebuke the ADM, but to help it, give it a wakeup call. And just maybe one influential member will see the light and lead the way to meet at least one critical need, a new head football coach. This is what Chancellor Arnold Weber brilliantly did in December 1991. He said enough is enough and in effect ended the dark ages for NU football, by hiring Gary Barnett.

    Too few of us know about Arnold Weber’s key role in what many consider the greatest turnaround in college football history. He saw the need for and found the talented young man who in less than four years took the Purple to Pasadena. And he also won two Big Ten Championships for us — all this within 5 years of his hiring.

    But today, we can only hope that in our ADM there’s another person with Arnold Weber’s vision who will influence the head-coaching change we so desperately need just as we needed in December 1991.

    But if that’s pipe dreaming, then OK, as bleak, hopeless, and depressing as everything sounds, there is still ONE HOPE: That If Fitz loves Northwestern as much as he says he does, on his own volition, he will step down.

    As to that, In December 2012, he told The Florida Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville, FL, that despite his long contract, if it turns out he’s not doing the job, he would resign; NU would not have to fire him. (SeeJacksonville.com)

    Well, needless to say, 9 years and a 30-42 Big Ten record is not doing the job. So we alums and fans, through letters and emails, should fervently plead with Patrick Fitzgerald to keep his word and step down.

    And it goes without saying, Fitz is a good guy and loves his alma mater. Surely, he wouldn’t want a coaching legacy that on his watch Northwestern slumped to the pits and stayed there for X years.

    But no matter what, we should not shed tears for Fitz. Northwestern has made him a millionaire. He should be set for life.

    In conclusion, let’s pray for the sake of our beloved school that Fitz will negotiate with the ADM for another job more suited to his talents, which are many. And that he takes such a job.

    Then just maybe, like Chancellor Weber did, we’ll somehow find a Gary Barnett or Ara Parseghian type, who will take THE PURPLE TO PASADENA as conference champions.

    Once again we’ll live gleeful, fabulous days of euphoria like those of late November, all of December 1995, and January 1, 1996.

    And doesn’t just thinking back to those glorious days, put a smile on your face and sparkles in your eyes? How about that November afternoon when you learned that Michigan had beaten Ohio State, and we were Big Ten champs and going to the Rose Bowl?

    Ah, “Those were the days.” And memories of them should drive us to get emails off to Fitz.

    Then, keep our fingers crossed and hopes on fire.

    • one nice thing is all those Titans are in the other division, which means NU plays each only 1-2 of them, on average, each year

      • Woody6

        You’re right, Johnathan. But the bad news is we have to compete with them in recruiting.

      • PBRCat

        Under the old B1G schedules, each of the last three NU football championships occurred during seasons when the Wildcats did not face the Buckeyes. The playoff system lessens the prospect of NU competing for a conference title while not facing off against a powerhouse, at least in Indianapolis.

    • NUBobby95

      Have you sent this to Phillips or anyone else at NU? I am thinking of stealing it and sending it back with my blank season ticket renewal form.

      • Woody6

        No, I haven’t, Bobby. I am hoping persons at NU like AD Phillips will read it here on LTP.
        But feel free to use it as you see fit. I appreciate so much your support.
        I’ve always enjoyed your witty, right-to-the point LTP posts.

    • LTP

      You are very much entitled to your opinion and while I disagree with several of your points, I have heard from many who share similar sentiments. I would ask, however, why you, along with several other of the most outraged fans, don’t have a real working email address that is aligned with your comment log-in. I tried to back-channel email you regarding the insights you had as to Arnie Weber’s role in the Gary Barnett hiring and yet it turns out it was a fake email. Please advise.

      • Woody6

        Sorry LTP, but the email address I have in connection with Disqus is not fake. It is a working email address that is aligned with comment log-in. When someone replies to one of my comments, Disqus notifies me, such as it did for your above reply to me.

      • Woody6

        LTP, as to Chancellor Arnold Weber’s role in hiring Gary Barnett, in December 1991, he and I corresponded regarding the hiring. I was one of those who felt sorry for Francis Peay. I felt he had not been given sufficient support and tools to do his job.

        But Chancellor Weber with overwhelming, well-reasoned persuasion convinced me that letting Peay go and getting new blood just had to be done. And, of course, he was absolutely right, sooooooo right as history has proven.

        For this reason, as I said in my comment, I think Mr. Weber deserves a lot of credit for the greatest turnaround in college football history. He saw the need for change and picked the guy who “done did it,” Gary Barnett.

  • Steve Z

    Status of the new facilities… Are they ever going to break ground?

  • Cletown Joe

    I would love to see the curtain pulled back and the LTP influence. Give us some insight into the LTP world over the last 7 years!

    • Jason

      I agree, this is what I’m most interested in learning more about.

      • LTP

        Coming up…

  • JimB7368

    I’d like to hear from Fitz what it would take to make a coaching staff change? I agree the military image is nice but not really a Northwestern image. I’d also like for you to suggest your replacement. Who do we turn to now for NU info?

    • lakingltp

      Haha. I’d like to hear from fitz on that too. But that’s not going to happen and certainly not here.

      On the military / SEAL association: It’s not about branding. It’s about football. At least I can now understand what has been driving the branding talk on this blog. But, from someone not interested in the inside baseball of that I cannot imagine anything less interesting and more futile than branding a losing team.

      Also, like it or not the association with the military is a result of shared values,…mental and physical toughness, hard work, loyalty to teammates, responsibility, discipline etc. Football and the military are and always will be inextricably intertwined going back to Otto Graham and beyond.

      Personally, I applaud the attempt to instill some of the SEAL values in these young men. My only problem is that the toughness part isn’t taking. An evaluation of who we recruit is in order, as opposed to a disassociation with military values.

      Also, IMO the strength of LTP has been the comments section and the diversity of opinion and opportunity to vent that it provides. The comment feature should remain open.

    • Bob Parkman

      In the military, you replace commanders and lieutenants that don’t get the job done. Their fault, the other guy’s fault, nobody’s fault. Failure to achieve should not be rewarded with continued tenure.

    • I’d suggest Inside Northwestern for info now. WIth Sippin on Purple gone too, they’re the bigwig left. It’s the SB Nation NU site.

      • Lake The Posts

        I would second that endorsement

    • PBRCat

      “Hail to Purple” is a good resource for team history and updates about the current football schedule, but it is not a comment driven site. It does contain a treasure trove of data.

      • wildact6

        And “Cat Nips” is downright hilarious. Time for potables?

        • PBRCat

          If the football team’s downward spiral continues, I am afraid that my dependence upon potables will result in my entering a twelve step program.

  • bandcat

    Looking forward to like-minded school status..throw in NU and Rice we would have an 8 team conference…should be able to find 2 more schools in the country willing to do major athletics the Right Way.. Maybe?? Man I am going to miss a lot of bad news on the Internet as a result of not firing up the ole computer and getting my early dose of LTP..and the beat goes on…as Sonny and Cher sang…really going to miss the LTP Beat…

    • lakingltp

      Not a good idea. Absent some real change, we’d be permanent cellar dwellers in that conference too

    • das420

      Here’s another idea: just compete in the #$@# BIG! And, this notion of doing things the “Right Way” makes us sound pompous and completely out-of-touch–just stop it!!!

      • lakingltp

        Thank you for that. Couldn’t agree more

        • NU’06er

          LTP, I’d love to see to the extent possible an analysis of what doing thing the “Right Way” actually means, both good and bad, for the program in terms of advantages/disadvantages/barriers this approach creates.

          I suggest this because, without belaboring the point (especially since I’ve made it over at InsideNU as well), I feel like a lot of debates of the direction of Northwestern football under Fitz boil down to a disagreement as to 1. what kind of program we actually are in the first place; and 2. what is therefore possible — and neither side is actually using flawed logic, they are just extrapolating from different premises. (See, for one example, “Richard” and “lakingltp” in the Harbaugh hire thread arguing whether Northwestern is “not an NFL farm team” or “need not be a loser to be associated with Northwestern”.)

          It feels like a gap that has grown ever since the CAPA hearings and Colter’s testimony about long practice hours, advice against taking certain classes and social media monitoring — which some people seemed to take as evidence that Northwestern is just like every other program and so we might as well prioritize winning more emphatically and others seemed to take as evidence that if that’s the worst of our dirty laundry then Northwestern is not just like every other program and there’s something there setting us apart from traditional football factories worth preserving.

          Bottom line: Does NU have to be an NFL farm team to be successful? Are we already one and just really bad at it? Do we do things the right way because our players generally graduate/don’t get arrested or is that just pompous elitism? These are starting points to a the broader discussion of how college football works as a whole and how we should aim to operate by contrast — and it’s hard to see much unity of opinion among fans going forward without a better understanding of such basics.

          • lakingltp

            The administration should have an analysis comparing NU to our successful competitors in everything from revenue and expense, sources of funds, fixed assets, capital budgets, to coaching staffs and player recruitment. And, then a plan based on that. If there is no such analysis, they should all be fired. If there is I wish someone would get a copy and post it.

            My belief is that the turnaround usually begins with a new, high profile, offensive, quarterback- oriented HC, like Harbaugh/Shaw and Cutliffe, who either were or developed QBs at the next level. And spending on new facilities doesn’t hurt either.

            I’d also like to see how that BigTen network money is used. And what the plan is when we get that whopping increase in a year or so.

          • LTP

            I think this is good framing in terms of both extreme ends of the spectrum with NFL factory (read: Alabama, Ohio State) on one end and an exaggerated version of “The Right Way” on the other end. I agree whole-heartedly with this part of your comment: ” I feel like a lot of debates of the direction of Northwestern football under Fitz boil down to a disagreement as to 1. what kind of program we actually are in the first place; and 2. what is therefore possible — and neither side is actually using flawed logic, they are just extrapolating from different premises.”

  • LTP is a true warrior

    I read a few comments over from last week “commending” LTP for sticking with the blog despite little hope for optimism pertaining to wins and losses. Looks like you finally decided NU isn’t making football a priority and neither should you. Good for you. No reason to sacrifice family life to write about fitz and co. ineptness every day. As painful as this season was to watch, I can’t imagine how painful it was to write about. With no hope on the horizon, none of us can blame you. Please Morty and Jim, give us some hope for the future! Most of us are quickly losing interest.

    • LTP

      Actually that’s not it at all. A little too much speculation there on the reasons I’m putting down the pen.

  • cmlukey

    Harbaugh – likely great for UM and the B1G, bad for us unless we upgrade our staff significantly. That’s my Clif Notes take

  • PurpleHayes

    From my list, I’ll request your recommendations/analysis of what other Northwestern content is out there, for those of us who will miss our LTP fix. I was a single-source customer, so I’m a babe in the woods when it comes to finding another home. Would appreciate any guidance (or even a laundry list) you can provide. From your list, I’ll vote for the comparison to other programs. That’s a subject not much discussed, because it is only relevant to those schools who are in the midst of it–like us. The Harbaugh topic, for example, will be beaten to death in every medium and form. Let’s hear your thoughts on Duke/Vanderbilt/et al vis-v-vis NU. Thanks much for asking.

  • HB

    An interesting post would be to obtain Gary Barnett’s thoughts on how to address the last two seasons’ downward spiral for NU football from a coach, fan and administration perspective based on you interviewing him perhaps by telephone. I believe Barnett’s thoughts would be both insightful and constructive in that he is a strong supporter of our program, continues to mentor Fitz and has experienced both the highs and lows of coaching.

    • NUBobby95

      He addressed his last losing season at NU by leaving.

    • LTP

      I know Gary well “enough” that he wouldn’t go there on that topic as the framing of that would only be interpreted as him being critical of the current team, even if he is talking philosophically. Gary is a Wildcat, despite having left and never wants to do anything to distract from the current team.

  • Mark Heller

    @LTP. While there may have been a long list of things that you wanted to but didn’t do/accomplish, the issue is that you were able to focus and accomplish the most important things and the things that mattered to your readers. I’m sure on Stephen Covey charts you worked in the most important quadrant. Well done!

  • binky

    Well hang on folks this is going to.be a bumpy ride on the final approach.! I feel my dander getting up already. Fire Fitz crowd is rabid as ever, hoops fans are excited and worried at the same time. Well me I’m mostly good, Cat wrestling is ranked in top twenty, oh and last few years they usually are. An unsung NU,, team. Ooh but they don’t bring in huge crowds. Well you can dance around all you but that’s not what college athletics are supposed to be about. Yep I say I think the system is broken when it comes to football and hoops.