In a number of discussions I've seen on this site, a commentator will say "Why can't Northwestern win as often as School X?" for some school that has some of the attributes of Northwestern (mostly small and/or private and/or high academic standards). These commentators have only a vague understanding of how well most of those other schools have performed on the field.
First of all, my role model:
Here are the private BCS schools: Baylor, Boston College, Duke, Miami, Northwestern, Notre Dame, USC, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest. I'm also including UNC and UVA, since they face many of the same issues and often enter this conversation. All records are over the last ten years (2001-2010).
|School||Winning %||Conference Winning %||Graduation Rate (2010)||2010 Attendance|
So of the 5 schools ahead of Northwestern, USC and Miami have received or will receive massive NCAA sanctions, so they are not acceptable role models. Notre Dame is the most tradition filled program in the country, which makes imitating them difficult. UVA has an unacceptably low graduation rate (and hasn't performed appreciably better anyway, especially once conference affiliation is considered).
The only comparable program that has outperformed Northwestern over the last decade in a respectable way is Boston College (give or take what you think about their little conference affiliation and coaching change kerfuffles). That's it. Even they have only averaged less than one additional conference win a year and only won the one "4-way tie at 4-2" conference title.
The only other conference titles from this group are USC (7, 2 vacated), Wake Forest (2006), and Syracuse, who was one of the three other teams to share the title with BC in 2004.
For attendance, Northwestern was 10th from this group last year. However, 8 from this group were under 40100, a mark I expect Northwestern to break this year (given the more appealing home slate and the efforts of the marketing).
I'm not saying that Northwestern can't improve on the field, but saying that there's this whole slew of similar, successful programs is hogwash.