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Mailbag: Football recruiting, future oral histories, and Calypso Sheridan

The former head man and the his two managing editors answer a few questions in a final farewell.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Northwestern at Stanford Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Noah already said his goodbyes last week, but we thought we’d run through a traditional final mailbag to send off last year’s full editorial staff. Without further ado:

@Lassimak: What’s a story you always wanted to write during your time as editor but never got to?

Joe: The 2018 football season needs an oral history.

This idea is certainly a product of recency bias as it was my freshman year and first season truly following Northwestern football, but that has to be one of the flukiest seasons in modern NCAAF history. Before I had even arrived on campus for orientation, Northwestern was 1-2 with an embarrassingly bad loss to Akron Zips. I’ll never forget the feeling of despair watching that game the night before I was set to get on the plane to Chicago and begin my NU journey.

Yet somehow, two and a half months later, I was on the caravan of busses shipping ~40 percent of the NU undergraduate student body down to Indy for the biggest Wildcat game of the century. Despite the tough result, that day will forever go down in Northwestern history. The scenes and support from the purple in and around Lucas Oil Stadium on that special Saturday felt surreal.

There was no shortage of awesome coverage in the aftermath of the epic Holiday Bowl victory thanks to our former bosses Caleb Friedman and Davis Rich, but there needs to be a piece that encapsulates it all. That season truly had everything.

Clayton Thorson’s miraculous injury rehab, a shocking Jeremy Larkin retirement, a horrid September at Ryan Field, a memorable November evening in Iowa City, and who could forget how it all ended in San Diego.

I look forward to reading that 2018 oral history in the future.

Noah: If you asked me this question four months or more ago, my answer would have been “more than three positive game stories.” Thankfully, women’s basketball’s incredible run more than made up for football and men’s basketball’s struggles.

Now, I just wish we could have gotten the chance to write some of the build-up stories that we were planning headed into a highly-anticipated NCAA Tournament. With luck, Eli and Lia will be able to lead the way to a great two weeks of content at that time of year in 2021!

Avery: I would’ve loved to write a gamer from a March Madness game. I’m more of a football person than a basketball person, but there is nothing like the intensity and drama of March basketball, and it would’ve been so fun to cover a tourney game. Especially for a program like Northwestern whose success in the event is *limited*.

We got a chance at the women’s tournament this year, which certainly would not have been a bad consolation prize, as the team was a blast to follow all year, way more than the men, but of course COVID was COVID and a conference title-winning season went to waste. Maybe next year.

@Macstone00: If you were to be stuck with one current/former Northwestern athlete on a deserted island, who would you choose to be stuck with and why?

Noah: I’m looking for somebody strong, capable, and personable, all traits shared by plenty of Wildcats. But at the same time, you don’t want to bring along anybody with too big of an appetite, given the limited food sources we may have to deal with. Based on those entirely arbitrary and nitpicky qualifications, I’m going with former Northwestern point guard and two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Ashley Deary.

Deary is sure to have plenty of great stories: the Wildcats’ all-time leader in games played participated in some great ones, primarily from the 2015-16 season and the NCAA Tournament appearance it included. Meanwhile, her quick hands and overall speed (the Texan accumulated a whopping 429 steals over the course of her career) should be a help in any potential sticky situation. And of course, the 5’4” former guard likely wouldn’t be a problem in the food supply category. A perfect fit!

Avery: An underrated athlete to come through Evanston is Luke Donald. Dude rose to number one in the world and it seems like he barely ever gets talked about. It’s a shame he never won a major, but I’ll take 12 PGA/Euro tour titles, and I’d love to pick his brain about what it’s like to rise to the top and almost just as quickly fall out of the top 50. He has a really fascinating story.

This is a guy that comes from England, starts dominating the collegiate game (with four All-American honors), rises all the way to number one in the world in 2011, maintains that ranking for a decent period, then falls off the map for the common golf fan. He’s still playing and competing now, and there are no signs of the end being near.

Joe: Stuck on a deserted island? Obviously I’m going with a swimmer who is going to fight the ocean current and swim to land to get help while I stay behind and wait to be rescued. My choice? Easy, Calypso Sheridan. The Aussie is at the peak of her swimming career right now, already having broken multiple school and conference records by just her junior year.

Sheridan earned All-American honors at last year’s 2019 NCAA Championships, and she was cooking this past season heading into the 2020 Championships before the pandemic cut the season short. A spot on the Australian Olympic team is next in store for the promising young Sheridan, but before that, she’s swimming to shore and getting me off this deserted island.

@calebfriedman: How does COVID-19 affect 2020 Northwestern football differently than other Big Ten schools (if at all)?

Noah: Illinois as a state has had pretty strict rules as to gatherings, and looks to be continuing that trend, and despite Northwestern being a private school they would obviously be following those directives, which could affect practice time before games begin. Outside of that, which would affect both the Wildcats and the Fighting Illini equally, it’s tough to see much that would be drastically different from what their conference foes will be facing.

Avery: I assume that NU won’t be affected in any different manner than the rest of the league. The only thing I could think of is Northwestern being the only private school in the league, but it’s going to have to operate on the same rules as the rest of the conference, so that won’t hinder the program at all. We’ll have to see how guidance for fall sports plays out, and with summer camp fast approaching, a decision will have to be made sooner than we think.

Joe: To be honest, I have no idea. The fact that Mike Bajakian won’t get to spend his first spring in Evanston on-campus with the players and coaches probably isn’t a great thing, but I’m sure every coaching staff in the Big Ten is dealing with plenty of logistical issues on that end. Fitz has also time and time again shown us that he doesn’t understand how technology works, so I also worry if other Big Ten coaches are getting a leg ahead on that front

I also wonder if Northwestern maybe loses a slight edge in recruiting by not being able to host in-person visits at Ryan Fieldhouse. Again, this is all hypothetical, but not having the opportunity to show off the stunning new facility feels like it puts the Wildcats at a disadvantage in trying to lure future recruits.

@jimcarper: If NU could add one NCAA varsity sport, which one would you like it to be?

Noah: I may be slightly biased here, as my sister is a dedicated gymnast herself, but I would love to see the ‘Cats add women’s gymnastics. It doesn’t seem entirely feasible given where the athletic department currently stands, but the Big Ten already has established teams in the sport, it has significant mainstream appeal, and with Northwestern’s consistent success in women’s sports of any variety, it couldn’t hurt to add another.

Avery: Men’s. Hockey. It would be the best sport for the school financially, and I also think it would be the most exciting sport. There’s plenty of talent to recruit from in the midwest and I think you would get a vast level of support from the area if the team was introduced.

Joe: ^Avery stole my answer here. College Hockey is unbelievably fun to watch, and it just feels right that a cold weather school should have a team. Northwestern hockey sweaters would also be awesome. Just imagine a group of skaters clad in purple going up in the Frozen Four along the likes of Michigan Tech, Minnesota State Mankato and Minnesota-Duluth — what a sight that would be.

Joe Pinheiro on Facebook: Who do you think will be the next men basketball coach?

We’re all agreed on this one: