Foreword: Why The Daily is ranking Northwestern’s 25 greatest sporting events now


Daily file photo by Rachel Dubner

Dererk Pardon and Bryant McIntosh celebrate Northwestern’s last-second win over Michigan in 2017. The shot is an enduring moment from what remains the Wildcats’ only NCAA Tournament appearance.

Patrick Andres, Sports Editor

What makes a great game a great game?

Is it a game-winning play, like Carlton Fisk’s iconic home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series? 

Is it an expectation-surpassing individual performance, like Michael Jordan’s destruction of the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals? 

Is it a seismic upset, like the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid in 1980?

Is it a culmination of a season to remember, like No. 2 Texas’s win over No. 1 USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl?

The answer lies in the eye of the beholder, and Northwestern’s athletic history contains compelling examples of each. 

The Daily has come together to vote for the 25 greatest sporting events the Wildcats have played. It was no easy task. How do you sort the revenue sports from the non-revenue sports, and the accomplishments of yesteryear with NU’s spectacular recent achievements?

We think we’ve found a happy medium. Here you’ll find the Cats’ cultural touchstones — the football game that landed them on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the men’s basketball game destined to grace the Welsh-Ryan Arena pregame hype video for all time. You’ll also find some lesser-known successes — the athletic program’s first national championship more than eight decades ago, and the emergence of a future world No. 1 golfer. 

Of course, with The Daily undertaking a democratic process to arrive at a limited list, not every great moment is included. Football’s 1995 and 2000 wins over Michigan are absent, as is its last win over Ohio State in 2004. Men’s basketball’s upset of Indiana in 1988, when the Hoosiers were the defending national champions, is also omitted. That’s the beauty of a list such as this one: by design, it can’t please everyone, as everyone has their own conception of NU’s greatest triumphs.

The list does skew toward the 21st century — nearly half of the events on our list have taken place since 2000. There are two reasons for that. First and foremost, the Cats have just been better at sports since Y2K. This is particularly true of football, where coach Pat Fitzgerald has led NU to unprecedented heights, but it applies across the board: to men’s basketball, women’s basketball, lacrosse, field hockey, softball, men’s soccer, you name it. We are living in the Northwestern Century.

And secondly, we are a young bunch. While you, dear reader, were looking down, children of the 2000s stole your thorny crown. Here it helps to think of sports like music: if The Daily made a list of its 25 greatest albums of all time, it’d be replete with modern gems — “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” “Take Care,” “Red (Taylor’s Version),” “Melodrama.” Favorites of past generations may be nowhere to be found, and that’s okay, as it’s on every generation to dictate its own canon.

It’s no different in sports. As seasons pass, and new classics are added, we make new friends and keep the old. So settle in for a trip down memory lane, as we look back on the 25 events that have shaped Northwestern sports.

To go to the 25 greatest sporting events in Northwestern history, click here.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @pandres2001