Northwestern comes together to celebrate Gator Bowl victory

Melody Song/The Daily Northwestern

The football players stand behind their Gator Bowl trophy, on display to the public. All fans had the opportunity to take a photo with the trophy.

Josh Walfish, Reporter

Northwestern’s celebration of its win in the Gator Bowl entered its 18th day Friday with a community-wide event.

On the same day Gov. Pat Quinn proclaimed Jan. 18 “Northwestern Wildcat Football Day” throughout Illinois, the NU community came together in Norris University Center to celebrate the bowl win with coach Pat Fitzgerald and a dozen players. The event was organized by the Office of Student Affairs in conjunction with the athletic department. It was the first time students had a chance to honor the team since it returned from Jacksonville on Jan. 2.

“It was certainly similar to what it’s been ever since we won that game,” senior safety Jared Carpenter said of the atmosphere. “There is an excitement going around unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced since I’ve been here.”

The nearly 100 people in attendance were entertained with a video highlight package of the Gator Bowl before NU officials took the stage for brief speeches. University President Morton Schapiro spoke about his pep talk to the team on the Saturday prior to the game, during which he emphasized the history the players were going to make by winning the Gator Bowl. Jim Phillips, Vice President for Athletics and Recreation, credited fans as the lifeblood of the program and relayed how he and the rest of the staff appreciated their support.

ASG President Victor Shao said he enjoys celebrating the accomplishments of the NU student body as a campus. The Weinberg senior said celebrations like the one on Friday make him proud to be a part of this community.

Similarly, ASG vice president Brad Stewart said the campus has become more united after this win, which fits into what NU has been trying to develop the past couple of years.

“All the people we’ve talked to were really excited about it and realized how important the win was,” the Medill senior said. “One of the things Northwestern is working on all the time is building that sense of ‘One Northwestern,’ and this was a step in the right direction.”

The celebration is just a small part of the general attitude on campus toward the football team after the victory. Carpenter described the reaction he has received since being back on campus as “dreamlike” and “surreal,” and said people on campus have been stopping players and congratulating them on the victory more than ever before. Fitzgerald has also seen the reaction of recruits off campus as he has scoured the country to lock in his recruiting class for next season. He said the reaction on the road has matched what he has heard about back in Evanston.

“There’s just an incredible buzz and a great electricity,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot of excitement and buzz not only with the seniors that we’ve committed, but with the juniors and sophomores that we’re recruiting. There’s a lot of positive momentum and a lot of great things going on.”

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