Football’s Great, But Other Sports Need Love

Nina Mandell

By Nina MandellThe Daily Northwestern

Managing editor Teddy Kider strongly advised me against writing this column, because of what he calls my completely biased opinion of the Northwestern lacrosse team.

But with the football team having a subpar season during my senior year, and with the lacrosse schedule that just came out showing just about every major lacrosse power coming to Evanston this spring, I have to say: Bring back lacrosse season.

Or at least start paying attention to teams other than football.

As part of the Big Ten, students at NU have reached two dangerous misconceptions: that NU must succeed in football and basketball to have any bragging rights and that it’s OK to put smaller sports second.

So disappointed football fans: Stop whining.

NU has something great in its smaller teams and not only in lacrosse. With the academic standards, smaller alumni base and students that don’t recognize their quarterback on the street, NU is not going to attract Rivals.com’s top recruits. That’s not to say NU will never be good at football – of course, with consistent bowl appearances, NU does have a decent program – but if the fall sports season is considered a weak one when football heroes can’t step up, the student body is clearly mistaken.

But how can students think any differently when the administration treats non-revenue sports like the beauty queen’s sister?

Case in point: the new field. The lakeside field that all of our non-revenue sports have played on took far too long to build in order to have the promise of a Big Ten-caliber facility. It’s something the athletic department has floated in front of Daily staffers’ noses since I’ve been here, without any progress. And why is it finally coming? Because NU needs more parking around the Allen Center. Jazz that up with promises of stadium lighting and better turf (yay! intramural sports can play on the varsity field too!), there’s still not any mention of an improved press box or camera facilities – something that would not only be nice for The Daily but give NU more recognition nationally and make it much easier to attract top non-revenue sport recruits.

While the field is a good example, I think the ultimate shame comes in the softball team selling programs at football games. A media spokesperson insisted this is something they do voluntarily to raise money that football has to raise for the rest of NU’s athletic program, and maybe that’s true. But for a team whose national championship run got higher ratings on ESPN than NHL playoffs, I think they deserve for the athletic department to find funding somewhere else for them, instead of from program sales.

This weekend, there are other big games to check out after you watch football.

For the first time in years, women’s soccer is actually decent, something that comes from the hazing scandal: Mark Murphy woke up, realized the team had been losing for years and hired another coach. And now? They upset a 16th-ranked team, and they look like a soccer team that can win. They play Penn State Sunday.

Men’s soccer has come from a team that won one game when Tim Lenahan came in 2001, to a team that isn’t completely off when it talks about its NCAA chances – and that’s with a season plagued by major injuries. That’s worth cheering for. They play Michigan State Sunday.

If nothing else, lacrosse opens its season at North Carolina February 17.

NU wrestler Jake Herbert once told me (and everyone watching the men’s soccer game at home against Penn State) via a painted chest: “Penn State is good. Northwestern is gooder.”

Let’s get the financial and student support to prove it.

Reach sports editor Nina Mandell at [email protected]