The 2014-15 athletic year has all but come to a close, and that can only mean one thing: end-of-year awards. Beginning Monday, June 1, Inside NU will be handing out seven different awards to celebrate the top players, coaches and games of the year in Northwestern sports.
However, it's not just our decision; it's also yours. Today, Monday, May 25, we are releasing the nominees for all seven awards. At the bottom of each page is a poll, and that's where you can make your vote count. Voting will be open for a week, and will close at 11 p.m. on Sunday, May 31. Winners will be announced the following week. Without further ado...
Although men's basketball and football dominate Northwestern sports interest, for the most part, those two teams have actually taken a backseat in success to sports like women's golf and field hockey, each of which the Wildcats were really good in this past year. Behind those teams and great players, of course, are top-notch coaches, of which NU seems to be chock-full.
Whether it's women's basketball making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the late 90s or softball reaching college's biggest stage for the 10th time in 14 seasons, Northwestern's non-revenue teams are led by coaches who are at the top of their profession.
Here are the nominees for Inside NU's 2015 Northwestern Coach of the Year Award:
Kate Drohan, Softball - The Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time in their last 14 seasons but saw their postseason end quickly with a loss to Notre Dame. Even with the disappointment, it was another successful season for Drohan and her team, which won 17 of its last 19 games after a rough start.
Emily Fletcher, Women's Golf - Since Fletcher became NU's coach, the Wildcats have made six consecutive NCAA Regionals, and competed at their third-straight NCAA Championships this weekend. They entered this year's Championships ranked No. 14 in the country, and, heading into the fourth round Monday, are two strokes back of 8th-place, which would qualify them for match play. And oh by the way, Fletcher was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Tracey Fuchs, Field Hockey - Fuchs took over a struggling program in 2009, and in just five years has engineered a remarkable turnaround. This past season, NU made the NCAA Tournament and won a Big Ten regular season title for the first time since 1994. The Wildcats also upset Maryland to win their first Big Ten Tournament title ever. Fuchs' work ever since arriving in Evanston has been awesome.
Joe McKeown, Women's Basketball - McKeown took Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997. When he took the job in 2008, the program was down in the dumps. No NU team had won more than three Big Ten games since the turn of the century, and multiple teams had gone 0-16. McKeown finally completed his rebuilding project in 2014-15.
Drew Pariano, Wrestling - It was another highly successful year for the NU wrestling team, led by Big Ten champions Jason Tsirtsis and Mike McMullan, which underlies how six Wildcats competed for national titles at the NCAA Championships, which is pretty remarkable. Pariano, a NU alum and coach of the team since 2010, is at the root of all the winning and the 15th-place overall finish for the Wildcats in the entire NCAA.
Josh Burton: I have to go with McKeown here. Snapping an 18-year NCAA Tournament drought should be evidence enough but he deserves this award for more than just that. Since coming to Evanston, he has turned NU into a 22-win and a tournament team after the Wildcats went 7-23 in his debut campaign. That's an incredible turnaround, and it resulted in postseason success in 2015.
Henry Bushnell: This is a toss-up for me between Fletcher, Fuchs and McKeown. I imagine McKeown will be the popular pick, but what Fuchs has done with the Field Hockey program is even more impressive. So I'll go with Fuchs.
David Gernon: The double of making the NCAA tournament and winning the Big Ten is impressive in its own right, but when you factor in the turnaround job Fuchs has overseen with the Field Hockey team, it becomes even more first-class.
Josh Rosenblat: McKeown's got this category for me. It'll be fun to see what he can do as this young team gets older in the next couple of seasons.
Kevin Dukovic: When you make the NCAA tournament as a basketball coach at Northwestern you deserve all the props in the world. McKeown has turned the women's basketball program around and he's finally starting to reap the benefits.
Voting has ended. Check back throughout the week, as we'll be announcing winners Tuesday through Friday.