Nadkarni: When will Northwestern basketball get the change it needs?


Rohan Nadkarni, Sports Editor

Did Northwestern really want people tweeting about this?

On Wednesday night, I made it out to Welsh-Ryan for “social media night,” the athletic department’s much-hyped event aiming to draw a big crowd for Northwestern’s matchup with No. 19 Wisconsin. But as the less-than-full student section filed out before the game ended (myself with them), I realized just how sad this basketball season has become.

The Wildcats scored 12 points in the first half last night — 12. Let that soak in for a moment. It wasn’t for a lack of effort or even lack of talent. This is the same team that hung with Ohio State for 58 minutes and 30 seconds. But at some point, athletic director Jim Phillips and coach Bill Carmody have to look at each other and ask, “How did this happen?”

I find the dichotomy between the men’s basketball program and football program at NU fascinating. There’s no doubt those two sports are the most important for the school. With all due respect to the other athletes, basketball and football draw the most eyes and, more importantly, the most money.

But while football trends upward, with its bowl win and charismatic coach, basketball remains mired in limbo, a special hell where the top never stops spinning.

You can debate Carmody’s place in the whole mess and if he deserves to stay or go. But you never hear that kind of debate with football. No other sport at NU besides men’s basketball always seems so beset by injuries, so mired in mediocrity, and ultimately so disappointing.

But how did the athletic department, which saw a historically bad football program grow into Big Ten contender, let this happen?

Is it the training staff? Get some better medical help. Is it the facilities? Build a real gym for once. Is it the coach? Who even knows at this point?

Anyone can see the anguish in Phillips’ face as he struggles through another home loss. The athletic director usually sits behind University president Morton Schapiro, who also buries his head in his hands during another poor offensive display.

It’s obvious the two care, but it’s time to let NU’s fans and alumni know just what the hell they are doing to fix the basketball program. It’s easy to make excuses. It’s easy to say how the season would have been different if X player didn’t get hurt.

But that’s not good enough anymore.

NU set its own standard when they took a football team that had the No. 1 graduation rate in the nation to a Florida bowl game — which it won.

It’s time for change. It’s time to give the people who still follow men’s basketball a reason to think things are going to be different. I don’t care if it’s a new coach or even a new court, but something needs to happen.

Phillips and Schapiro don’t often speak to the media about the team directly, but it’s time the two of them addressed their fans and let them know that decades of incompetence will no longer be the measuring stick for the men’s basketball program.