Sherman: Determining Northwestern’s athletic niche

Rodger Sherman

Some schools have basketball and football.

Why does Northwestern have women’s lacrosse?

Let’s say you’re a top-flight women’s lacrosse player. (Maybe you are. I hear we have a few of those at NU.) Like, legitimately one of the best in the world at what you do. Would you choose to go to college any place other than Northwestern?

The sports NU is able to dominate-not compete well in, like our football and men’s basketball teams have done in recent years, but dominate-aren’t your traditional revenue sports. They’re sports people don’t tailgate for. They’re sports that don’t have video games made for them-my copy of NCAA women’s lacrosse Street Vol. 2 is currently on hold. They’re sports that you don’t go pro in, even if you’re in the top 1 percent of human beings that do that thing. There’s no professional women’s lacrosse league waiting to snap up NU’s talented graduates.

If you’re a great women’s lacrosse player, your time for glory on the field is short, and right now, NU is practically the only place that offers that. If you came to NU as a freshman four years ago, right now you’ve got rings for every finger but your thumb. And if you came here now, you’d probably be disappointed leaving with two or three NCAA championships, while most coaches and players would kill for one.

Not to mention that considering you’ll never be banking on a roster spot in the NWLA-a league I just made up-for employment, you’ll want a pretty diploma on your wall.

This is why NU has the past five women’s lacrosse national championships, 12 Big Ten titles in women’s tennis, why our softball team is typically an NCAA contender, and why Jake Herbert came to Evanston to win a caseload of national titles in wrestling. It’s NU’s niche: off-the-radar sports where money’s not an option.

If you’re in the top 0.1 percent of basketball and football players in the world-not the Kevin Cobles and Drew Crawfords of the world, able to compete at an extremely high level, but the John Walls and Derrick Roses, the guys clearly capable of bringing a team to the brink of a national title-NU isn’t the place for you.

You want a place that gives you the best option of being successful at the next level. And yes, NU has had pros in both basketball and football: We just produced three NFL draft picks, and I don’t need to tell you about the basketball stylings of former Dallas Maverick Evan Eschmeyer, pioneer of the Air Eschmeyer shoe brand and the reason people across the world shout out “Eschmeyer!” when shooting jumpers or throwing crumpled up paper into the trash bin. But let’s look at the empirical data: after the NFL draft, NU has 16 players in the league, less than NU-like schools such as Vanderbilt and Stanford and tied for the fewest in the Big Ten with Indiana. And the Wildcats are one of only two teams with no NBA players, and the other, Penn State, had Calvin Booth balling as recently as last year and current point guard Talor Battle is almost certain to hear his name called next year.

For whatever reason, pro teams don’t look at our players as closely as their teams’ records might indicate. So where’s the appeal to a top-notch athlete in having to go to a school where they’ll have a smaller chance of going pro and a better chance of spending four years slaving over a degree while also playing football?

But for lacrosse, there’s really no other option as appealing as a highly successful school that can help you after graduation, too. And the absurd success we’ve achieved in those sports exemplifies NU’s niche.

Assistant Sports Editor Rodger Sherman is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]