Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern Wildcats - History

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The Wildcat Nickname

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
Northwestern football historylines were 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.

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