University celebrates 100 years of ‘Go U Northwestern’ fight song


Rafi Letzter/Daily Senior Staffer

The Northwestern University Marching Band plays the school fight song before the football game against Indiana on Sept. 29. The fight song will turn 100 years old later this month, and a contest is being held for fans to submit their own renditions.

Jeanne Kuang, Reporter

The Northwestern fight song has been around for a century, and the University is looking to use the anniversary to instill even more school pride in the NU community.

University Relations is collaborating this month with the Department of Athletics and Recreation to host “Go U 100: The Northwestern Fight Song Centennial Contest,” in which students, faculty, alumni and fans submit their own recorded renditions of the fight song.

NU’s fight song, “Go U! Northwestern,” was written by student Theodore Van Etten in 1912 following an NU football victory against Indiana University. The University plans to officially celebrate the song’s centennial Nov. 24 at Ryan Field during the game against the University of Illinois.

Submissions, which will be accepted until Sunday, will be judged by athletic bands director Dan Farris, WildPride spirit squad coordinator Pam Bonnevier and football coach Pat Fitzgerald. Winners will receive a Northwestern Athletics prize pack with an autographed “Coach Fitz” jersey, and their submissions will play on the CatVision screen during the game.

The contest originated with Matthew Paolelli, web content producer for University Relations, and Doug Meffley, assistant director of digital and social communications for the athletics department.

Paolelli said he came up with the idea in 2009 when he “just happened to ponder the fact that the fight song would be turning 100 in 2012.” He planned to hold a contest that invited student groups, faculty and staff members to create videos to celebrate the song.

When Meffley had a similar idea for a fight song contest, the two decided to partner up for the competition.

“We were going to do the same thing on the athletics side with our fans, student athletes and teams,” Meffley said. “So we brought all of that together into one contest.”

Paolelli said University Relations is “very open to user-submitted content.” They run Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook accounts for the school, and Meffley said the University is increasingly trying to use social media to reach out to students and alumni alike, whether through contests like this one or game-day interactions.

So far, submissions have included the fight song sung by University Archives staff members, as well as a rendition by the 3-year-old twin daughters of an alumna.

Marching band member Carley Lintz, said singing the fight song with the football team during games is a “unifying” experience.

“You can’t help but, when you’re singing it, feel really really proud to be going to Northwestern,” the Medill sophomore said.

University officials said they hope the contest will “stir up” more school spirit.

“Tapping into something that’s a common experience for the Northwestern community, past and present, is a good way to make people feel that purple pride,” Paolelli said.