>I promised a story on the LTP excursion to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last week. The more I think about it, I should be on the payroll of NU as a brand ambassador. It really is silly how easily I’m able to work Northwestern Athletics in to a conversation regardless of where I am. A true test is the hoops Hall of Fame considering the fact NU may have the least amount of connections to Springfield’s shrine as any collegiate program in America. Yes, Tex Winter’s impact on HOF inductee Scottie Pippen is a connection, but that’s about it.
I was in town to support Coach Bob Hurley Sr. as my day job led me to help produce the documentary film chronicling his amazing story. You might remember The Street Stops Here premiered during March Madness on PBS this past spring. After a reception on Thursday night I found myself sitting at a hotel bar with one of my alltime favorite players – Oscar Robertson. Truly the Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan, the Big “O” was kind enough to indulge me in a great hour-long conversation about hoops. I’m fascinated by the man not because he AVERAGED a triple double in the NBA, but because of his amazing high school career under Ray Crowe that in my opinion, single-handedly led to the desegregation of the entire state of Indiana. After sharing our respective stories it naturally came up that my move to Chicago was in large part due to attending Northwestern. Turns out, one of Oscar’s daughters who was at our table actually attended Northwestern (she ended up transferring to American University). It was a night I’ll always cherish.
Following that, I found myself at a private part of the hotel with about 30-40 NBA dignitaries and Sir Charles Barkley was kind enough to put his credit card down. What a thrill to be literally having a beer with Charles, Dee Brown, Bill Wennington and David Aldridge debating the merits of today’s players understanding of the collective bargaining agreement. Bill shared he was en route to BC to see his son play which obviously led to a CFB discussion and talk of the ‘Cats.
During the next 24 hours I had the chance to have conversations with everyone from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Jerry Colangelo. Some were brief (David Stern) and some were lengthy and robust (Jerry Colangelo). Nearly all were able to find themselves discussing NU and when it was warranted Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcat program. Being in a hoops-crazy crowd I can tell you there is still some brand recognition Fitz and the ‘Cats need, but I’m sure a few of the unlucky folks I conversed with at least have the seed planted. All in all, a night to remember.
Next Sunday I will do a more thorough NFL wrap-up of Wildcats in exhibition play. No doubt Mike Kafka was the headliner of this past weekend as he rallied the Eagles on consecutive scoring drives to earn the win. Granted, much of the drives consisted of runs, but Mike connected on a 57-yard strike and overall was a key in the Eagles 28-27 win over Jacksonville. Mike was 3-7 for 76 yards on the night. He’ll be back in action Friday night at 8pm et when the Eagles face Cincinnati.
Tina A. offers some insights in to the Vince Browne-Kevin Watt-Quentin Williams battle for DE in today’s Sun-Times. The article also boasts Fitz’s discontent with the energy level of some of the offense after a rigorous two-a-day on Monday. I’m still very concerned about Drake Dunsmore who will be sitting out of Camp Kenosha as he’s “dinged up”. As we’ve noted here several times of late, Drake being “dinged up” has been a given, but the guy is so darn tough, for him to be out for a prolonged period of time scares me.
The TCU Blueprint
With all of the talk here about stadium renovation, this news of a complete stadium renovation to the tune of $105 million at TCU should strike a chord. When you read this piece you could literally madlib the word TCU and replace it with Northwestern and it would work. The tiny undergrad base (just under 9,000 (NU has 8,000)) and the fact that Dallas-Ft. Worth is home to more other Texas school alums that TCU must really fight to make it Ft. Worth’s hometown team. Hmmm…sound familiar? OK, how about the constant struggle to garner attendance? Only twice have they drawn over 38,000 in recent years and this is a team whose on-field success is BCS bowl level in the past few years. I found it interesting that they raised $105 million in 8 months from 34 donors. I’m convinced we’re heading down this road soon. We’ll keep an eye on the transformation as it could provide a nice blueprint for NU.
Ring The Bell!
Ticket sales are starting to pour in from LTP readers. Alan A. gets major bonus points for not only tallying four season tickets (including converting two friends) but also puts a handful of flags on the map from China-to-Dubai-to-Bridgeport. Ian S. put two season duckets on the board and John W. picked up three 3-packs for Ryan Field. Keep ’em coming!
Wave the Flag
Today’s LTP Flag Project Highlight is thanks to BJ and Jim who submitted this beauty in front of Ara Parseghian’s statue outside of Notre Dame Stadium. Thanks for everyone’s patience on the LTP map which is currently being overhauled and will be up very soon!
News & Notes
Tomorrow we start our 2010 team-by-team comprehensive preview starting with Vanderbilt. We’ll also be posting a LTP Mailbag – a new feature – this afternoon.