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Saturday's Northwestern-Syracuse game: the "Prose Bowl"

Spend enough time around sports media people, and you’ll quickly learn many of the profession’s finest hail from two esteemed journalism schools: Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. You’re no doubt familiar with many of the names that call ‘Cuse and NU their alma maters. PTI Host Mike Wilbon and Mike and Mike co-host Mike Greenberg, Sports Illustrated college football writer Stewart Mandel, ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, and NBA columnist and Around the Horn contributor J.A. Adande are some of the more famous Medill alums. Syracuse has no shortage of sports media luminaries: ESPN play-by-play man Mike Tirico, TNT broadcaster Marv Albert, Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel and legendarily incisive interviewer and baseball enthusiast Bob Costas are among those who identify with the Orange.

These are the people writing, talking and analyzing sports, and so it’s only natural their alma maters’ athletics teams would serve as an extension of their good-natured newsroom competitiveness. In the lead-up to Northwestern’s opening week game at Syracuse in 2012, Bill Hofheimer of ESPN Front Row compiled an amusing list of antagonistic Prose Bowl commentary from NU and Syracuse J-School graduates working at ESPN. Here are a few samples:

Mike Greenberg, ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning Co-Host (Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern): “I certainly plan to watch the Purple Pride crush the Orange, and am looking forward even more to all the trash talking I can do on Monday!”

Adam Schefter, NFL Insider (Master’s degree from Northwestern): “I don’t know who will win Saturday’s game but I do know Northwestern is the better J-school. No contest. One-sided. Blowout. I mean, c’mon, man!”

Mike Tirico, Play-by-Play Commentator, Studio and ESPN Radio Host (Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse): “I do plan on watching the game Saturday in part because I know it will in good hands with Beth Mowins doing play by play.  Her Syracuse roots guarantee an informed, unbiased, first-rate call.  Northwestern should win. They are favorites and are enjoying the success of a rebuilt program now thriving. Syracuse is going in the right direction with Coach Marrone and a few years away from getting the program back to where it should be. But that doesn’t mean an upset is impossible. We have already won the print and broadcast journalism contest so I am content with the outcome on the football field. 

Sean McDonough, Play-by-Play Commentator (Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse): “The football game appears to be a toss-up, but in a matchup of the respective Communications schools, it would be no contest.  Newhouse is the best in America. . .and it isn’t close!”

Last season, the Wildcats topped Syracuse, 42-41, in a wild back-and-forth shootout. Medill alums rejoiced in unison. The Orange will get a chance to exact revenge Saturday – Northwestern is a 17-point favorite, per the latest Vegas odds – but the Prose Bowl overtones feel even more prominent this season. Why? Greenberg is serving as Northwestern’s honorary captain, a position he accepted when Pat Fitzgerald posed the question on ESPN Radio last month – and one Wilbon zestfully fulfilled for last season’s home game against Nebraska. This is not the first time Pat Fitzgerald has involved Greenberg in Northwestern’s gameday machinations; remember this play-signaling placard from last season?

With Greenberg dropping in, rest assured the Prose Bowl antipathy will reach heightened levels. The Northwestern-Syracuse football game that just so happens to be taking place at Ryan Field Saturday? Psh. Journalism school pride is what everyone no one actually cares about.