Letter to the Editor: Northwestern sports are doing OK

Last Thursday, Daily sports editor Jonah Dylan wrote a column arguing Northwestern is running out of excuses for mediocrity. Dylan opened his column by highlighting a weekend’s worth of relatively negative results for University athletic teams, eventually concluding “NU is still not very good at sports.”

Most of Dylan’s angst seems directed at NU’s non-revenue sports, for which he claims “the issue is more glaring.” While we could argue what qualifies as “good” — something Dylan failed to clearly define — it’s fair to conclude, using anecdotal evidence and cold, hard facts, that in reality, NU is very much “good” at sports.

Let’s start anecdotally with the first team Dylan addressed. For the first time in program history, women’s soccer won a share of the Big Ten Championship last season and the Wildcats are, as of now, still in control of whether they’ll qualify for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament — another program first. Although Dylan claims their chances of repeating as Big Ten champions have “effectively ended,” with a favorable upcoming schedule and the fact teams ahead of the Wildcats in conference standings still have to play one another, NU seems to still be very much in the fight.

With just a single loss in the Big Ten this year, field hockey currently sits as a top-10 team in the national coaches’ poll, and breaks the top five according to the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index. Even NU baseball — a team that consistently lagged behind its conference rivals before the arrival of current coach Spencer Allen — is coming off a run to the Big Ten title game. With vastly improved talent over seasons past, the Cats should be right back in the race this spring.

On and on the examples go.

Olympic athlete Jordan Wilimovsky led men’s swimming before graduating last spring. Women’s basketball arguably holds the best recruiting class in the Big Ten. Men’s tennis sits in the midst of its greatest run of success in program history. And the last time women’s tennis finished outside of the top 3 in the conference was 1997. We haven’t even gotten to the best program in NU history — the seven-time national champion women’s lacrosse team.

Anecdotally then, calling Wildcat sports “not very good” doesn’t hold up.

I concede that most of these points are (somewhat) arguable. You know what’s not? Something Dylan left out of his column — the hard numbers.

In the 2016-17 season, the Cats’s average finish in our 17 varsity sports played by at least nine other conference teams — that is, all but women’s lacrosse and fencing — was 6.2. That’s fifth best in the Big Ten.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t describe that as “not very good.”

Austin Miller, Medill senior