Football: From Ducks to Cats: Schill talks football following storied history with powerhouse Oregon


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

First-year linebacker Kenny Soares and teammates prepare for Northwestern’s game against Miami (Ohio). The Wildcats have yet to win a game under new University President Michael Schill.

John Riker, Gameday Editor

Michael Schill presided over a university with one of the premier football programs in the Pac-12, the Oregon Ducks, from 2015 to 2022. Though the Ducks never returned to their national championship heights of the early 2010s, Oregon appeared in six bowl games in seven seasons and won the 2019 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. 

Oregon’s expectation of contending for national championships is something Schill described as a difference between his former university’s team and Northwestern, he said in an October interview with the Daily.

“Oregon starts a season thinking it’s going to be the national champion,” Schill said. “It’s always a contender — it hasn’t yet been (a champion), but always thinks that. I don’t think at Northwestern, we have that high expectation.”

Under coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats have raised their football program’s profile, winning two Big Ten West titles in the past four years and ranking 10th in the nation in the final AP Top 25 poll in 2020. NU hasn’t suffered losing records in back-to-back seasons since 2014, though the Cats are in danger of breaking the streak with this season’s 1-5 start. 

While NU has made waves in the Big Ten in recent seasons, Oregon football has become one of the most recognizable programs in the country, from its 2011 national championship appearance to its bold uniform combinations and connection with Nike. 

Schill called Oregon a “national brand” athletically and said many students’ first impressions of Oregon are from the football field, while NU is known primarily for academics. He also clarified that while the universities have “a different balance between athletics and the academic world,” he believes both dynamics are valid and essential to their respective school cultures.

“Oregon’s the little state up in the corner that people in New York may have never been to, but people in New York are wearing Ducks sweatshirts, and so that’s how they hear about the school, then they learn about the great academics,” Schill said. “At Northwestern, it’s more likely that they hear about the great academics, and oh, and there’s football, too. It’s just a different utilization of sports.”

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