SB Nation is doing something really cool: they took six blogs (including our good friends at Black Heart Gold Pants), and are asking them to redraft the six BCS power conferences. They get to pick the teams, pick the name of their new conference, how many teams, geography not a factor, based on whatever they feel is important about a conference.The rules are posted over at Cowboys Ride for Free, our Oklahoma State site if you want further detail. All of a school's athletic teams are considered, if you want to build a dominant women's lacrosse conference, NU is your no. 1 overall pick, but the same applies to Duke's football team.
The objective is to "explore the values of individual schools by drafting them sequentially". I predict, notwithstanding how I would pick, that Northwestern goes undrafted. Part of that is due to bad stereotypes of our school, part of that is that we aren't that valuable to a conference.
Which got me thinking: how undesirable is Northwestern? But the more important question: how little do we care?
I'm a Northwestern fan. I'm not sure how I got in here, and through my first three years of college (which officially ended yesterday), this school has been unbelievably awesome to attend, part of which is attending NU sporting events.
But I can't help but feel that from a perspective of someone building a new conference, Northwestern is arguably the LEAST desirable school out of the entire BCS. Let's take a look.
The people running this put together a few factors to look at when drafting a conference.
Athletic prowess/competition: This one went without saying - it wasn't on the official list of criteria - but it's somewhere that NU ranks, well, highly. At this point in time, NU football is a consistent postseason bid and NU basketball is universally above .500 on the year. In revenue sports, I'd argue that Northwestern has been in the top half of BCS institutions in terms of team success over the past five years and is likely to continue that trend in the upcoming season.
Athletic revenue: Northwestern was 56th over a four-year average from 2005-2009. Now, that didn't factor in a good year in 2010 in terms of revenue, but also doesn't take into account how much being in the Big Ten benefits NU. NU is behind all but nine power conference football teams - Baylor, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Iowa State, Washington State, Mississippi, Cincinnati, South Florida,and Mississippi State - in terms of athletic revenue.
TV Ratings: Northwestern is the only FBS team in the nation's third largest media market. That doesn't help our TV ratings, though, as NU is arguably the school with the tenth most fans in that media market in the Big Ten.
Academics: BOOM. (I'm stacking this so a lot of the good ones come up first.)
Historical success: You're killin me, smalls. NU has the second-worst football winning percentage of any BCS school - Wake Forest - the most losses of any college football team, no bowl wins since 1949, no NCAA Tournament appearances, ever - wait, had you heard that before? Surprising, huh? - and has a banner celebrating NIT appearances in its 8,000 seat basketball stadium. The hits keep coming.
Co-eds: Not to rain on anybody's parade, but I think it's pretty f*cked up that this is a category - we're still trying to fight the perception that sports blogs are glorified cheerleader pic galleries, cough bleacher report - but they put it in, so, there's that. People loooooove complaining about Northwestern girls. These people are, by and large, dicks who probably post on CollegeACB a lot. (Not that I have a problem with that site after being discussed as one of the hottest Jews on campus my freshman year. I think I've pointed this out about 843 times on this site.) But perceptions will be perceptions, and this is an area people will not look in Northwestern's favor.
Weather: DAMMIT PEOPLE #snowinapril #heatwave #thunderstorm #negative15
Desirability of Location: Chicago! Come on, people, Chicago!
Traditions: We have none.
Rivalries: We have none.
Ethics: We have... a lot, actually.
Party rankings: We're not on any lists, but, we've got Gawker, saying "You've earned your reputation as a party school, Northwestern. Now you gotta live with it.". That said, whoever wrote that article was dumb.
Out of those 12 cateogires for desirability, I count FOUR - Athletics, academics, ethics, desirability of location - in which Northwestern is at all competent. The rest, I'd argue, Northwestern will be perceived as one of the worst schools in a power conference, which is why I feel we'll go undrafted.
But that said, I don't really care. What I care about is winning. Hopefully, the rest of that stuff - TV ratings, traditions, rivalries - will fall into place, as one might say is starting to happen with Iowa, and one day we might even have historical success. But for now? Ehh.
NU might not be perceived as great, but luckily, this is a fantasy draft, and NU isn't getting kicked out of the conference, so we're still in the Big Twelveventen.
And an above-average team in the Big Ten at that.