Hey, Mizzou, Take a Gander at Northwestern

Article excerpt

Northwestern is going to the Rose Bowl. Northwestern was unbeaten in the Big Ten. Northwestern is ranked third in the polls. Northwestern has an outside chance of winning the national championship.

Think about it. Has there been a more remarkable, astounding development in college football in our lifetime? I'm no historian, but I can think of nothing to match this. The marketing geniuses at Disney couldn't come up with a more heartwarming fable, a more inspiring feel-good story.

Northwestern has arrived in time for the holidays. Northwestern is a Christmas present to pessimistic fans turned off by the superficial, predictable nature of sports. Hey, it's OK to believe in miracles.

This is, after all, Northwestern. Humiliated during a 34-game losing streak from 1979 to 1982. Northwestern, beaten down and fed to major-college lions during 23 consecutive losing seasons. Northwestern, away from the Rose Bowl since 1949.

This is Northwestern, the epitome of college-football futility. Northwestern, so hopeless that even Missouri (12 consecutive losing seasons), Oregon State (25 consecutive losing seasons) and Ivy League Columbia (44 defeats in a row in the 1980s) could feel superior.

And the beautiful thing is, Northwestern hasn't sold out. Northwestern - and sniveling, excuse-making Mizzou football fans should pay attention - has proven it's possible for a school to produce Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, engineers, doctors, lawyers, famous thespians and football heroes.

Northwestern didn't cheat, bend rules, lower academic standards or moan about the unfairness of an elite, 7,400-student institute of higher learning having to compete against the massive football factories of the Midwest.

Or as Fred Hemke, Northwestern's faculty representative to the NCAA, told the New York Times: "This remedies, at least in my mind, a great amount of cynicism I have heard concerning intercollegiate athletics, particularly football. That you can't maintain high academic principles and still come out on top. It is possible to do both. …