HOME ~ College Football History
Football players had not come down from Evanston; Wildcats would be a
name better suited to (Coach) Thistlethwaite's boys ... Stagg's boys,
his pride, his 11 that had tied Illinois a week ago, were unable to
score for 57 minutes. Once they had the ball on the nine-yard line and
had been stopped dead by a Purple wall of wildcats." These
written by Wallace Abbey in the Chicago Tribune following the memorable
Northwestern-Chicago game in 1924 that heralded a new era in
Northwestern football. From that day on, all the Northwestern athletic
teams have borne the nickname of "Wildcats."
Following the Chicago contest, which NU lost 3-0 on a last-minute field
goal by Bob Curley, Northwestern met the famed "Four Horsemen" of Notre
Dame and battled the Fighting Irish to a standstill before bowing 13-6.
Northwestern's points were scored on two drop kicks by All-American
Ralph "Moon" Baker. After that, there could be no question of the
appropriate nature of the new nickname.
Years later, Major General Robert H. Wienecke, captain of Northwestern's
1924 squad, recalled: "We were just an average team which developed a
spirit that carried us to superb heights against Chicago and Notre Dame.
I feel that the reputation gained by the team in those two final games
of the 1924 season launched a momentum that was to lead to the Big Ten
championship two years later."
Sweet Sioux Tomahawk
The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk goes annually to the winner of the
Northwestern-Illinois football game.
The Sweet Sioux initially was designed as an authentic wooden Indian,
like those that used to stand in front of cigar stores throughout the
nation. It eventually posed a transportation problem and was replaced by
the current Tomahawk.
Northwestern gained possession of the first trophy with a 13-7 victory
over Illinois in 1945. Entering the 1998 season, the Fighting Illini
hold a 28-23-2 series lead over the Wildcats since the symbolic award
was established, but Northwestern has won the last three meetings and
five of the last seven.
The color purple (with white) was selected by a special committee in
1894 as the official school color, not only for the athletic teams, but
for the entire university.
The mascot known as "Willie the Wildcat" was developed in three stages.
The nickname "Wildcats" was initiated in 1924. Nine years later, in
1933, the Northwestern athletic department teamed up with an advertising
firm to create the first caricature of Willie. In 1947, the first mascot
was actually brought to life when four members of the Alpha Delta
fraternity dressed up as Willie for their Homecoming float.