Illinois coach Tim Beckman may be doing all he can to pick a fight with Northwestern, but the Wildcats could have an even bigger #RealRival growing 2,000 miles to the West. Okay, that may be hyperbolic, but recently, Cal has become to NU what the Wildcats have become to Ken Pomeroy's basketball ratings:
Northwestern is just a colossal pain in the ass.
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 1, 2014
Northwestern prides itself in having few decommits during every recruiting season, but this year, four players who once pledged to NU changed their minds and headed elsewhere. Two of those players — Noah Westerfield and Hamilton Anoa'i — signed with Cal on Tuesday. Auston Anderson, who signed with NU, told InsideNU that Cal also pursued him after he was committed (along with UCLA, Tennessee and Nebraska). Last year, NU-turned-Cal recruit Ray Davison lost his scholarship from NU because he visited Berkeley. That means of the five Wildcats that have decommitted in the past two years, three have gone to Cal, and at least one other NU commit was courted by the Golden Bears, though recruiting committed players is common practice around college football.
Even before these recruiting wars, this rivalry had some juice. During the 2012 season opener, Cal coach Sonny Dykes accused NU players of faking injuries, and his "suggestions" to the refs were filmed by the Pac-12 Network:
Dykes to Ref: “They’re tired. They’re getting hurt every two or three plays. They’re going to have another guy hurt in two plays.”
Footage of NU player on the ground with Dykes’ voice: “Here they go! Here they go!”
Dykes to Ref: “This is..”
Ref to Dykes: “You know I have no power over this.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Pat Fitzgerald was angered by the accusations:
“If anybody were to question the integrity of myself, our program or our players, I question theirs,” he said. “So that’s all I say. Our guys get dinged up. They get dinged up, they’re instructed to go down. You’ve never walked in and heard me say that ever, have you? I have a hard time with that. But if our guys get dinged up, they’re instructed to go down not hobble of to the sideline.”
Yes, Northwestern and Cal are 2,000 miles away, but they have already formed a bit of a rivalry — or, let's say, a mutual displeasure for each other. And that doesn't figure to end soon. Both schools tend to run in the same circles in recruiting, and they're bound to see a lot more of each other.
So when Cal comes to Evanston to open the 2014 season, expect there to at least be a little bit of tension. If the recruiting battles keep up, what we saw in the 2013 opener could just be the beginning.