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Goodbye from the editor-in-chief: Reflecting on a wild year

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It’s been a crazy ride for Northwestern athletics and their fans over the past 12 months, and we’ve been there every step of the way.

@nuwbball on Twitter

Of all the years to be the Inside NU editor-in-chief, I sure picked a doozy.

Northwestern men’s basketball and football combined to go 11-32, their worst combined mark over a single school year since 1999-2000. Back then, Kevin O’Neill was on his way out after an unmitigated disaster, and Randy Walker was just getting started on the gridiron. And hey, the football ‘Cats were co-Big Ten Champs the next season, so maybe it’s a good omen!

That’s all to say that in terms of on-field and on-court product from the two most recognizable and most-written-about teams, my time running the show at this site wasn’t exactly marked by success. The losses kept piling up, and to be honest, we were pretty burned out when it came to trying to find unique and meaningful ways to write about them by the end of it.

But for those who have followed my writing over the nearly three years I’ve been on staff know that I’ve always been all about the Olympic (or non-revenue) sports here anyways, and those teams certainly gave us plenty to cheer about. With softball hosting and winning their first NCAA Regional in a decade last spring, and lacrosse heading back to the national semis, my tenure started off strong.

But then, this winter, women’s basketball blew up. After seeing a relative spike of fan interest over the program’s WNIT run back in 2018-19, and leading coverage of the team here during that season while also being very involved with them through WNUR Sports, I had already planned on maximizing our coverage of a team we knew to be on the rise when I was running the show.

And boy, did they make it easy to do it. From Day 1 all the way to Big Ten Championship glory, Joe McKeown and his players always treated me and the rest of our staff with as much respect as possible and gave us as much information as they could, whether I was on a road trip with radio or just working on a story during a midweek media availability.

I”m extremely grateful to them for that, and I’m extremely proud of our consistent, excellent (if I do say so myself) coverage of a truly special group of players that made whatever other struggles Northwestern athletics suffered through worth it, even if their season was unfortunately cut short. After all, if you add their record in to that harrowing number above, you get a respectable mark of 37-36.

But I’m also very proud of our coverage across the board, even through the tough times that both men’s basketball and football faced. We showed up to every game every step of the way, and did our best to give you as much information and insight as we could, no matter how bad the results on the field looked. I’m tremendously grateful to our staff for their continued efforts in that regard, though I do hope for their sake that as I turn things over, they get the chance to write a few more positive rapid reactions.

I’ve been around here at Inside NU as a reader ever since very early in my fandom. I started lurking back in 2014, when Kevin Trahan was running things and Henry Bushnell and Josh Rosenblat were ready to take over, though I didn’t actually make an account to comment until two years later. Anybody who knows me, or has read my writing, knows how deeply I care about the site and the community we’ve fostered, and that’s why I’m happy to be confidently leaving it in good hands in these uncertain times.

Eli Karp and Lia Assimakopoulos have been two of our most reliable contributors over the two years they have been with us (even more so than me sometimes), and both have taken on increased roles during the past few months. They are fantastic writers who care deeply about the site and provide unique insight into the teams they cover, and I’m lucky to be able to give the reins to journalists of their caliber and dependability.

Lia and Eli will be supported by an impressive team of editors. Colin Kruse, Mac Stone, and Daniel Olinger are all relatively new additions, but each have already provided a ton of value to our community, and they are ready to give us even more.

And as for my managing editors, Joe Weinberg and Avery Zimmerman, all I can do is offer my heartfelt gratitude. Both have been with me every step of the way in this yearlong journey, supporting me above and beyond what their initial job descriptions were when I needed it most. We will be putting together a mailbag for next weekend during which we will talk more about both their next steps and the past year together, but for now I just want to say thanks.

Though, with our current situation, nothing about the future is a sure bet any longer, I will be sticking around to write and cover the teams I care about at least occasionally through my senior year. You can’t get rid of me that easily!

But this is still a sign-off, so I’ll offer one last thanks: to the community at large. Whether you comment on every post or check the site once every three months, everybody who has supported our work over this past year means something to me, and I appreciate all of you more than I can ever say.

Signing off for now,

Noah Coffman