Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day 1996, Northwestern football coach Gary Barnett took part in the Rose Cup.
Barnett’s team was on the field a few hours later, bickering about a season that no one had anticipated. But the coach, who challenged the Northwest to make big dreams come true, had to make sure the fairytale finale was realistic. Barnett makes his way through the guards, makes the field round and moves to the last row behind the purple area, which is painted white on the northwest side.
It was about one o’clock in the morning, Mr. Barnett said. My whole mantra for Pasadena was purple, and I wanted to see it without anyone in the stands. I wanted to make sure it was well done before we got here. I probably spent half an hour alone thinking about how much I enjoyed the players and what we did to get there.
It was a special moment.
The unexpected success of Northwestern in 1995 – the Wildcats went from 23 direct losses to Big Ten victory and the Rose Cup – is the reason why the legacy of the team lives on 25 years later.
Fault! The file name is not specified. The Northwest Run for the Rose Cup 25 years ago endangered a flooded program. Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Pictures
How many teams that are not football or bowling champions have a place in the history of university football? There have been many seasons in this sport with breakthroughs in the basic food sector, but no major conference program has been a greater failure than the Northwest.
One of the biggest losers of our time, said linebacker Don Holmes.
The Wildcats have been in the competition since 1995 and haven’t reached a single bowl since the Rose Cup in 1949. Between 1979 and 1982 they recorded a series of 34 defeats, which is still the longest in the history of the FBS. In 1989, they registered another 0-11 season and although there was a glimmer of hope at Barnet, the team started the game 8-25-1 for the first three years.
Then came the season 1995 – 10 victories, 8-0 in conference games and the rise of the Rose Cup. With every historic victory, the understaffed sports department tried to cope with a deluge of ticket orders and questions from the media. The stadium’s rubbish dump, which is usually half filled with hospitable fans, has started to turn purple. The campus, which has largely abandoned athletics, has received a transcendental team.
We were an American team, said athletic director Rick Taylor.
ESPN spoke to people in front of and behind the podium about a magical race that included a tough summer for the start, victories at Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State and nearly three weeks of training, celebrations and celebrations in California for the Bowl of Roses.
The fact that we’re still talking about it is resonating more and more, says team leader, center Rob Johnson. As for the story of one season in the modern era of university football, it will be hard to find a better story than the one we had in 1995.
You’ve always thought that if we win, we do something bad.
A few weeks after he was hired in 1991, Barnett approached the crowd at a basketball game in the northwest and promised to bring purple to Pasadena. His rally calls influenced the performance of other new Big Ten coaches in public.
Barnett soon realized that the Northwest School didn’t work like other Big Ten schools.
The first month I was there, one of the curators of the Academic Council told me… It’s our job to protect players from coaches, Barnett said. I’ve been thinking: I know what we’re dealing with.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Teamhead coach Gary Barnett and Northwest won 3-7-1 in 1994, but many players talked about the season as a stepping stone. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Pictures
Philosophy and history were Barnett’s main opponents in the northwest. One of the founders of the Big Ten, the Northwest, was in the top ten four times between 1936 and 1948 and took dignified positions under coaches Ara Parseghyan and Alex Agase. But in this way football no longer plays a role in the smallest and only private school in the league.
They always believed that if we won, we’d do something wrong, said Taylor, who became athletic director in 1994. It was the stupidest idea ever. I couldn’t believe it. I said it in public several times: We’re here to win. Our goal is to win the Big Ten.
People look at me or Gary like they’re crazy.
Students came to the matches behind the back door, but when alcohol was allowed, they rarely went to the Deach Stadium. Baseball player Sam Valenzisi, who is 5’7 tall, mixed with the unethylated population, remembers the students who ridiculously call their teammates Biff.
We’re counted: These guys were here, they’re not academic and they suck, Johnson said. We weren’t fully connected to the Northwestern community.
The players were also physically separated for training and matches, which were held about a kilometre west of the campus. The line judges, who did shuffling exercises in a small community gym, had to ask the volleyball and basketball players to step aside. The indoor training complex on the Northwest Complex was a playing field with grass, about 30 meters below the stands of the basketball stadium.
We’d play like an imaginary mail route, said quarterback Steve Cord. The catcher runs, he stops, and I can’t throw the ball because D’Wayne Bates bounces right into the wall.
In the spring of 1995 the Northwestern players were confronted with the choice of shoes for the season: white Nike shoes or black … Pony.
I bet no other school in America had a contract with Pony, Valenzisi said. We voted for nick. That’s what we want.
Barnett, who won the national championship in 1990 as Colorado’s offensive coordinator, brought confidence and charisma and encouraged recruitment. He focused on visualization, and the players sat in sessions with the lights off and presented goals that looked incredible. Phil Jackson from the football academy, Holmes said.
He had to convince 100 people that they were good, said Cord, thinking of the university, the whole community. Nobody was expecting us.
In 1994, Team Nordwest was 3-7-1, but many players talk about that season as a stepping stone. The Wildcats finished in 24th place at Stanford. They finished in second place, registered two out of ten road wins and led Ohio 9-0, then returned with 17-15 to the team that beat them in 48th place last year.
Prior to the Penn State finals, Northwestern banned Dennis Lundy, the team’s top player, from the game. Darnell Outry filled 171 yards, but Lundy’s situation seemed to be another shot, Barnett said.
After the training in the spring of 1995 the northwest felt good, but there was a difficult summer coming up. Home Missing Outry almost came back before her father intervened. Quarterback Lloyd Abramson, who was considered a likely starter, did not show up at the camp and talked about the exhaustion of football.
Then, in July, there was a tragedy. Marcel Price, a promising young lawyer, was killed in a shooting at his home in Nashville. Defender Chris Martin, who lived with Price in Evanston that summer, described his friend as tough, open and talented.
One of the guys who brought Barnett in to change the culture here, Martin said.
This fall, players wore the Big Six patches on Price’s T-shirts.
Barnett said we had to work on a lot of things. One thing led to another. It’s amazing how everything fell into place.
Starting something special
Northwestern has lost every hunting season since 1978, when it won 0-0 against Illinois. The Wildcats haven’t started 1-0 since 1975. The first three opened the score and Barnett lost to Notre Dame (total score: 111-34). A similar result seemed likely when the Northwest entered the 1995 season as a loser with four touchdowns against the ninth-seeded Fighting Irish.
But the Wildcats never followed the formula – suffocating defense, enough attack – it became their trademark. When the Northwest took the lead at the beginning of the third quarter with 17-9, the unthinkable suddenly seemed possible.
There was a phone in the press box, said sports news director Brad Hurlbut. People called from all over the country and asked questions: When was the last time you did this?
Barnett preached victory as an expectation, not a hope. He advised the players not to take it off the field after the victory over Notre Dame. But after the victory of the Northwest, 17-15 years, the balance was drawn up in pandemonium.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Film Wayne Bates and Northwestern started the 1995 season against Notre Dame nine times as losers with four touchdowns and then shocked student football with a 17-15 victory. Jonathan Daniel/Allsport
When Notre Dame approached coach Lou Holtz Barnett in midfield, Martin cut right in front of him, found an NBC camera and put his right index finger on his lips.
Nobody believed we could win, so we silenced not only the people in that stadium, but the people all over the country, Martin said. It was the beginning of something special.
The celebrations continued on the way home. Every time the Northwestern buses stopped on Indiana Toll Road, the drivers honked their horns and bells.
Even Notre Dame fans have said that the offensive lining Justin Shabo… The walk through those pay seats was almost like what you see on TV, the parade.
The school only started after a few weeks, so most of the students weren’t there. A hundred people greeted the buses as they approached the Daiche stadium.
It was 100 more than ever, Cord said.
On Sunday, Harlbut called Cord. Hello, America wanted a quarterback for Monday’s show. The limo will pick him up at 5:30 in the morning. Cord remembers that Harlbut likes to contact him and say: You, uh… and then you hung up. Harlbut called back and said the invitation was real.
Less than 48 hours into the season, Cord was discussing Northwestern football with Charlie Gibson at the GMA.
Given the newly acquired fame, the open deadline and a less visible opponent, it was predictable what would happen. The Northwest region was well prepared for Miami, Ohio and led 28-7 in the fourth quarter. But all known mistakes, namely some nasty dreams of the replacement sniper, led to a loss of 30:28 hours.
After 25 years of perte, this culture is in the process of becoming a second nature, Mr. Johnson explained. This really has to be a mental montagne gravir… You really must fight against the mistakes that can be made when you have no experience of the victim. We got our guard down.
The many joueurs consider Miami (Ohio) as a necessary failure. In the environment of a small medical batch in the coming weeks, the North-West bat has the Air Army and Indiana. Un voyage au Michigan est en vue.
Terror ! The name of the file is not specified. Chris Martin (16) and Northwest have followed a disaster in Miami, Ohio, with major air and Indiana victims, leaving Michigan on the horizon. Jonathan Daniel
Barnett, who worked for former Wolverine assistant Bill McCartney in Colorado, and the players had a lot of respect for Michigan. The return of Tim Bjacabutuka has been a burden. Jason Horne was in charge of the mutilating defense, including newcomer Charles Woodson. But thanks to a playful defence (four bribes), the legs of Autrie (103 yards) and the leg of Valenzisi (four field goals), the Wildcats won 19-13 – their first victory in Ann Arbor since 1959.
We prove ourselves: Notre Dame is no coincidence, Holmes said. You’re real.
Obtaining the right to participate in the competition was a realistic goal that entered the autumn period. With 4 to 1, the northwest can think more.
Then came the really wild side of the hype, said star linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, now head coach of the Wildcats. How are we gonna do this?
We were masters of the Great Ten, whatever.
The northwest was halfway through the historic season. Avtri, Fitzgerald, the defender of Khudhaifa Ismaeli and others have become national names. But the team’s greatest moments have been on the road, with recent victories in Michigan and Minnesota.
The calendar allowed a community of suddenly dedicated fans to celebrate their team up close.
On Saturday the library wasn’t as crowded as our stadium, Martin said.
There’s a euphoria on campus, Fitzgerald said. She moved from Dude, I hope we get a good crowd to God, it’s amazing.
Graduates rushed to town to go home. Barnett allowed the whole team to participate in the pre-game ash collection, which Valenzisi told the spectators about: Tomorrow will be a great day to be a wild cat.
Fault! The file name is not specified. On Saturday the library was no busier than our stadium, says northwest defender Chris Martin. Jonathan Daniel
Northwestern white Wisconsin 35-0, went seven rounds. Reserve corner Chris Rooney stopped Wisconsin on the 3-yard line in the last game to keep the save. Apart from the fact that we lost Valenzisi to a knee injury, it was a great day for the Wildcats.
That’s a confirmation, Mr. Martin. We were expecting to beat everyone.
With the victories and the excitement, the demands on the sports department, which does not know any of these things, have also increased. Christa Fortman, responsible for ticket sales, and two other employees take orders from 9 am to 5 pm. When the phones went down, they started processing orders and sending tickets.
At the weekend, they asked for help from other employees of the ministry and even from their husbands. Fortman remembers one of the women balancing on the lap of her 14-month-old child when he was managing credit cards.
We would have arrived at 6 a.m. and left at 1 a.m., Fortman said. Because our staff was so small, everything was under control. We were all exhausted, but we had an explosion. Clearly, I’ve never experienced anything like this before. He appeared out of nowhere.
During training this spring, Barnett Harlbat, who had been hired by Penn a few weeks earlier, called. The coach asked why there were no more reporters and reminded Harlbut that it was your job. Harlbut promised to keep his promise, he thought: Nobody’s won here in 25 years.
Until October, reporters filled a purple tent for each training session. The nightly news is here. Autry appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine under the title The Real Deal. The free press in Detroit even talked about the sports advisors.
We would have stood in line, Mr. Harlbut. Look around you, and I say..: You asked the media. I’ve done my job.
Early November, the Northwest played their long-awaited home game against the No1. 12 Penn State.
Keith Jackson and Bob Grizz were present during the interview at ABC. The stadium lights were on. Northwest had to give up some national newspapers. There was no room.
Despite the fact that the game in Wisconsin was complete, everything was different.
Many teams were able to take advantage of this advantage on the field, which is a given, said Fitzgerald. We never had one.
The national public saw Fitzgerald (20 grenades) and the state defender Penn. Autri scored three touchdowns and finished his 10th game. Touchdown at 100 meters. Warts have also appeared in the northwest. Jackson couldn’t have spoken through the fucking AP. In the second half, Cord called the judge and asked: Tell the fans blocking the 25-second clock south of the stadium to take their seats.
They put the clock in a place that could be blocked by the fans, Cordon said, because they didn’t expect the fans to sit on it.
Northwestern gave everyone a reason to stand up, cheer and beat Penn State 21-10.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Returning to the scoreboard, Darnell Outry scored three touchdowns and won his tenth straight 100-yard game against the 12th round of the season. Jonathan Daniel
We’re not used to showing the show on television with our prime-time facilities, Barnett said, but it doesn’t matter. At that point, we knew what was at stake, and we didn’t want to give up.
The northwest still had to win against Barnett’s practical rival Iowa. Iowa appears in red letters in the team list. During the week in Iowa, the Northwestern Scouting team was dressed in a separate dressing room.
Iowa achieved 21 victories, including 56-14 in the first season of Barnett.
They crushed us, laughed at us, and when we left the field, [Coach] Hayden said to me [Fry] : I hope we didn’t hurt any of your boys, Barnett. I just looked at him and I thought, I’ll never forget this moment. I loved Hayden and respected him, but it was nice to have something to think about every night.
The day of the university games took place in a cold and snowy weekend. Iowa took a 14-3 lead. Fitzgerald broke his ankle on his way to the first of two national Defender of the Year awards in the third quarter. The season was over, but the Northwest Rally won 31-20.
A week later, Northwestern defeated Purdue and won at least part of the Big Ten championship.
We’ve done our part, 8-0, Shabo said. We were definitely the champions of the Big Ten.
The Bowl of Roses, Hollywood, and a Story Living in
The North West League had an excellent record and a top five finish, but needed help to get into the Cup of Roses. Michigan should beat second place undefeated in Ohio.
Dozens of players gathered in the team room of the Nicolet Football Centre. The local NBC team watched the game from their home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Louis. Around Evanston there were parties every hour, but around noon many went to Nicolet.
The Rose Bowl people sat in the lobby with their roses, while the Citrus Bowl people were there with their boxes of oranges, Harlbut said. Now you see what any of this data looks like. Who will they vote for?
Northwestern hadn’t had a peel in 47 years, and Citrus had prestige. But everyone wanted Rose.
According to Valenzisi, romance will not be the same if it does not end on New Year’s Day in Pasadena.
Michigan begins to take control of Byakabutuka (313 yards). ABC cameras continued to show the team room in the northwest. That’s final: Michigan 31, Ohio 23.
When the clock struck zero, there were hugs and tears, said linebacker Barry Gardner. There was shouting and high fives, and the roses were passed in a circle. It was like a dream come true.
As for the story of one season in the modern era of university football, it will be hard to find a better story than the one we had in 1995.
Former Northwest Center and team leader, Rob Johnson.
Cars making noise with horns. Fans laid roses on Barnett’s porch and lawn. The umbilical cord received the same treatment in St. Louis.
That’s what I am: Wow! – Mr. Barnett said. That didn’t happen in Colorado when we went to the Orange Bowl.
The logistics of the Northwest Rose Bowl would be difficult. The cash register burned down. According to Fortman, Northwestern had to turn away, even though an opponent of the CHR cards handed out.
The university administrator told Taylor that the Northwest is hoping to save $250,000 by paying for the Cup of Roses.
Are you going to tell the group they’re not going, or shall I? Taylor answered, he said: What do you mean? I said: Every school in the Big Ten has overpaid its budget in the last ten years. I think we can stay within budget, but I can’t give you $250,000.
We’ve got the tape.
Then there was a little matter of practice. With no infield, Northwest took a bell to Chicago Bears in Lake Forest, a 40-minute drive.
It’s literally like high school, Cord says. You put on your football shorts, put your helmet and pillow on your lap and get on the school bus. It’s funny, the team’s going to the Rose Cup, but we didn’t know any better.
Barnett decided to bring the team to California earlier and Northwestern spent a week in Newport Beach before moving to Pasadena.
Everyone wanted a piece of wild cat during their long stay, especially many graduates of show business in the Northwest. Charlton Heston broke up with the Purple Sea at Universal Studios. The star among friends David Schwimmer came to practice. Harry Marshall’s having a party, Extra! Covered.
During his studies Martin’s mother turned to Fred Hammer Williamson, who played with Northwestern and the AFL before starting his acting career.
She is: I watch your shows all the time. I’m a big fan, Martin said. He looked at her and said: No, I’m a big fan of your son’s. My mother used to wear chocolate. They understood the impact it had on so many people, on what we have achieved.
Fault! The file name is not specified. While playing for the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles the Wildcats played and even appeared on today’s show. Margaret C’s photo bank. Norton/NBCU on Getty Images
Nobody jumped more than Barnett, who had to train, recruit, go out to dinner and perform, also in today’s show with Jay Leno. His name also appears in other books, especially at the University of California. There were even rumors that his deputies were looking for a house in Los Angeles.
I was gone every night, Barnett said. In a manner of speaking: Okay, today we have to finish the Red Sea, tomorrow we have to be at Leno, I have to be in the helicopter at 6:00 in the morning after practice. I was exhausted.
Finally, the day of the game has arrived and the scene that everyone connected with the team will never forget. Estimates of the crowd vary – 60%, 65%, 70%, more – but there is a clear majority in the Northwest Bowl of Roses.
Fitzgerald and Valenzisi, two wounded stars, were the first witnesses.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Current head coach and former defender Pat Fitzgerald appointed Team Catalyst in 1995 to make sure we are always winners here. J.D. Kubin/Alsport
It’s exciting, Mr. Valenzisi said. It was simply overwhelming to see a sea of purple wrapped around the other side of the stadium. Context: We couldn’t fill our own stadium. And now everyone who’s ever been to the Northwest has been there.
The northwest is 17 points behind, but has recovered, accelerated the pace from the inside and briefly took the fourth quarter lead. But too many Keyshawn Johnson (Rose Bowl record of 216 yards touchdown) and too many Wildcat errors led to a 41:32 victory for USC.
At the last moment the northwest supporters got up to greet their team.
If this was a fairy tale, we’d win, Mr Johnson.
Years later, Valenzisi wonders how few people remember the Wildcats losing the Cup of Roses, or even the one they played against.
The fact that they came to Pasadena in spite of all expectations only stands in their way.
It’s incredible that we’ve made our mark on American culture and football, Gardner said. This story is still the ultimate no plus ultra.
Northwest will share the Big Ten title in 1996 and again in 2000. The program has had 13 bowling shows since 1995 and has won four since 2012.
Fitzgerald, who became coach in 2006, has a 101-79 ranking, three victories in ten seasons and the championship title. In 2018, the $270 million Walter Track and Field Center opened in the northwest, overlooking Lake Michigan, and is considered one of the university’s premier football facilities. The Wildcats didn’t come back to Pasadena, but Fitzgerald appointed a catalyst team in 1995 to say we can consistently win here.
It gave us legitimacy, a reality, Mr. Barnett said. It changed the whole football program and the way people look at us.