clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Inside NU’s 2023 Wrapped

A year that will live in infamy.

NCAA Football: Las Vegas Bowl-Utah at Northwestern Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

2023 has come to an end.

For this site, and Northwestern Athletics, it was a year that will be remembered for a long time. First of all, I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for taking time out of your day to read this site. Whether you were here for one article in July, or you have read a story every day, we are extremely grateful that you spend your time reading what a bunch of college kids have to say.

As a site: we wrote nearly 1,000 articles, covered more than 300 Northwestern Athletic events, had 735,000 visitors to Inside NU, over two million page views and more than 2.3 million minutes of content read. To my knowledge, that is the most successful year in site history. Those numbers are a testament to our staff, who worked incredibly hard to ensure that all 19 teams got the coverage they deserved. I want to take this moment to thank all of them because this site could not run without them.

Over dinner in Las Vegas, Bradley Locker, Iggy Dowling and I started to reminisce about the year and pure chaos. We decided to try to go through all the days of the year to figure out what the hell has happened in the last 365 days. By the time we had walked to and from The Sphere, which I highly recommend, we had barely made it to August. So in this piece, we’re going to go through the year that was and put together the highlights, the lowlights and everything in between.

Jan. 4, 2023: Northwestern Basketball knocks off Illinois

If you want to point to the start of the ‘Cats’ magical run to the NCAA Tournament, look no further than NU’s takedown of the Illini. To be honest, this was my first ever Northwestern basketball game, so I was unaware of all the pain and suffering from the past. In fact, the atmosphere was so crazy that many students got turned away at the door, myself included, so I bought a ticket from StubHub to get into the game, and it was worth it. Inside an electric Welsh-Ryan, Chase Audige racked up 21 points with four threes, and Boo Buie’s 11-of-12 from the charity stripe lifted NU over the Illini 73-60, its first win against the in-state rival since 2019. The only part I vividly remember from this game was Ty Berry’s three to take the lead, and the eruption from the crowd wearing purple. That and Brad Underwood losing his mind on the bench as the Wildcats pulled away, which is always an enjoyable sight.

Jan. 11, 2023: Northwestern announces investigation of hazing inside football program

For what would come six months later, this day became rather important. I can still recall where I was when I got a text from Bradley with a link to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg’s tweet —the Plex dining hall. With this announcement, Maggie Hickey’s investigation launched. You know the rest...

Jan. 17, 2023: David Braun named Northwestern’s new defensive coordinator

On a more positive note, January brought David Braun to Evanston. After two abysmal years under Jim O’Neil, Pat Fitzgerald brought in the FCS Coordinator of the Year from North Dakota State to run the show. We all know how the year ended for Braun, but his defense was spectacular. The ‘Cats finished top five in the nation in the turnover margin, and many players exceeded expectations in their first year under Braun.

Jan. 19, 2023: Northwestern basketball has a COVID pause

If Northwestern’s trip to the NCAA Tournament did not induce enough drama, a COVID pause in 2023 was sure to add some flair. I did not even know that could still happen.

Feb. 11, 2023: The last time Northwestern lacrosse lost a game

This will be the Lakeshow’s first of many references to the list, but the only one with a slight negative connotation. In the ‘Cats’ first game of the season, they traveled to the Carrier Dome (I refuse to call it by its new name) to take on Syracuse. In a rematch of the 2022 NCAA Quarterfinals, the Orange knocked off NU 16-15. In her first game back from a torn ACL, Izzy Scane scored five goals, and Maddy Taylor added five scores in her first college game. Notably missing from this game was grad transfer Hailey Rhatigan, who would finish second in goals for the Wildcats. By the time NU takes the field to start the 2024 season, it will have been 364 days since it was defeated.

Feb. 12, 2023: Northwestern upsets No. 1 Purdue

What many consider to be the best day in 2023.

There’s no way to capture the moment in writing, so everyone just think back to it. For me, it started lining up outside the arena over two hours before tip-off with my friends. After we got in and secured our front-row spots, I watched as hoards of students filed in decked out in black. To be frank, the first 36 minutes of the game are a blur; however, the last four minutes are etched in my memory. It all started with a Buie offensive rebound, swinging it out to Audige for a corner three — five-point game. Then mere seconds later, as Dave Revsine put it, “Audige the steal, Audige the slam” — three-point game. A couple of Boilermakers’ turnovers later and the ‘Cats had the ball with 90 seconds left. Audige dribbled to the rim and passed it over to Barnhizer before running the baseline to the corner... swish, ‘Cats lead. As he backpedaled, high-stepping his way down the court, you could not hear yourself think inside a raucous Welsh-Ryan Arena. Flash forward 90 seconds later, and the court was a sea of black when students flooded onto the floor to celebrate Northwestern’s first-ever win over an AP No. 1 ranked team.

“The improbable season has taken an impossible turn.”

Feb. 15, 2023: Buie’s buzzer-beater to beat the Hoosiers

The best week in Northwestern history continued on Wednesday night when the ‘Cats squared off against the No. 14 Indiana Hoosiers. After taking a commanding 20-point lead into the halftime locker room, it looked like NU was going to cruise to victory. Yet, the Hoosiers did not go quietly into the night, pulling back even with roughly 30 seconds left in the game. To everyone who had watched Northwestern basketball over the past years, you could feel the tension in the air. This was going to be another comeback, heartbreaking loss that fans had seen so many times.

Enter Boo Buie. With six seconds to go, Agent Zero drove downhill, dropping his shoulder into a defender to create separation and dropping in a floater with 2.7 seconds left on the clock, sending the ‘Cats faithful into a frenzy. As Indiana’s last-ditch, half-court shot clanged off the rim, the crowd erupted as Buie was surrounded by the bench in celebration.

Feb. 16, 2023: Izzy Scane scores 10 goals in a game against Notre Dame

I don't know if this needs to be on here, but it is so preposterous that I had to include it.

She's incredible.

Feb. 19, 2023: ‘Cats blow out Hawkeyes, clinch berth to March Madness

People always forget that Northwestern is a beach school.

As students filled the baselines in Hawaiian shirts, or if you are me, in a scuba mask with floaties, this game was a party. The ‘Cats dominated for all 40 minutes of the game, sailing to a 20-point win. To make it even better, Fran McCaffery went FranCon 1 on the referees and was subsequently ejected, leading to a hilarious “where’s your daddy” chant from the student section toward McCaffery’s sons. The creativity didn’t stop there, because when Patrick McCaffery picked up a technical foul, the crowd serenaded him with a “just like daddy” chant. When the clock struck zero, the Wildcats took home the victory, punching their ticket to the dance.

Feb. 27, 2023: All three assistant baseball coaches leave the program

There were signs of problems inside Jim Foster’s squad pretty much from the moment the season began. Northwestern started the season 0-6, looking noncompetitive. As if the play on the field wasn’t bad enough, it was reported that all of NU’s assistant coaches stepped away from the program. Pitching coach Jon Strauss, hitting coach Dusty Napoleon and operations director Chris Beacom all left the program just two weekends into the season, leaving just Foster and a volunteer coach.

The three would later file a lawsuit against Northwestern, saying it allowed Foster to create an “abusive, toxic, and dangerous environment.”

March 12, 2023: Selection Sunday

I know it’s not a game, but this was a historic day for Northwestern basketball. For the second time in program history, the Wildcats were headed to the NCAA Tournament. In a season where many thought Chris Collins would be shown the door at the end of it, he led the ‘Cats to the most Big Ten wins in school history and had them dancing. As the purple N popped across the jumbotron, hugs and celebration rang out while the fight song blared in the background. Collins and Co. had to put up or shut up, and they sure did put up.

April 27, 2023: Chris Collins signs an extension and Peter Skoronski is selected in the first round of the NFL Draft

It was a wild night in Northwestern Athletics. Roughly half an hour before the NFL Draft started, Rittenberg reported that Northwestern came to an agreement with Chris Collins on a contract extension. Collins added three more years onto his contract, keeping him in Evanston until 2028.

To make the night even better for those in purple, Peter Skoronski was selected 11th overall by the Tennessee Titans. Skoronski was the second offensive lineman from Northwestern to be taken in the first round in the last three years, joining Rashawn Slater. He is the highest-selected Wildcat since 1983.

May 6, 2023: Lacrosse wins the Big Ten title

Nothing else to say here except it was pure domination from the Lakeshow. Every member of the Wildcats’ five-headed monster got in on the scoring, and Molly Laliberty did enough in net to hand the ‘Cats a 14-9 victory and the hardware.

May 8, 2023: Boo Buie announces he will return to Northwestern

He was back.

Buie, who had originally entered his name into the NBA Draft, announced he was withdrawing his name and returning to Northwestern for a fifth season. He had earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2023 and was named a preseason All-American for 2024. So far, he is on track to reach both of those accomplishments after this season.

May 13, 2023: Maeve Nelson walks it off to win the Big Ten

This may be my favorite moment of the year.

They don’t call them the Cardiac ‘Cats for nothing. After a controversial call gifted the Hoosiers a 1-0 lead, Northwestern entered the bottom of the seventh staggering on offense. However, it was hard to keep the bats down forever. Jordyn Rudd started the inning off with a single, and Hannah Cady followed that up with a double. Nikki Cochran worked a walk, and the ball four-pitch rolled to the backstop, allowing Lauren Sciborski, pinch-running for Rudd, to score and even the game. Two batters later, Maeve Nelson sent a towering fly ball off the wall, bringing in Cady for the winning run and the ‘Cats the Big Ten title for the first time since 2008.

May 26-28, 2023: Lakeshow dominates on way to National Championship

Imagine winning by so much in a National Championship that it reached a running clock. Well, the ‘Cats did just that.

Starting off the Final Four, Northwestern took on Denver and its vaunted defense. However, the top defense in the nation was no match for the Wildcats, with NU racking up 15 goals. Scane, on her way to the Tewaaraton, found the net six times in the game.

In the National Championship, Northwestern’s powerhouse offense was on full display. The Wildcats scored 18 goals against the No. 2 team in the nation. Scane added four goals to her weekend total, and Maddy Taylor tacked on four scores as well. As the clock struck zero, Rhatigan put the exclamation point with one final goal, and the sideline rushed the field to celebrate the program's eighth national title.

July 7, 2023: Hazing investigation concluded hazing occurred, Pat Fitzgerald suspended

The month of June was quiet for NU Athletics, but July made up for it easily.

Let me paint the scene for you all. It is a regular Friday morning. I am working my job as a camp counselor, trying to corral a group of five-year-olds to go fishing. After I finally get the kids seated, I get a notification across my phone from Northwestern. In the email is the executive summary of the investigation, which stated that hazing had occurred, the announcement that Fitz had been suspended for two weeks — plus statements from Fitz, Dr. Gragg and President Schill. First, I had to hold in an expletive so I didn’t get fired, but then I kicked into overdrive.

However, there was one small problem: I was the only one awake. After making a couple of frantic phone calls to Bradley and Iggy, both to no avail, I decided to write the hit while dealing with the kids. The hit you all read was written by me on my phone because I didn’t think I needed my computer on the docks. By the time the hit was written and published, everyone woke up, and it only got crazier.

July 8, 2023: Daily Northwestern article detailing hazing

This is when the s**t really hit the fan. Allegations of sexual hazing were made, and the public learned about the practice of “running,” the “car wash” and the Shrek list. When this came out, it sure felt like Fitz’s two-week suspension — during an NCAA dead period — didn’t match the accusations. If this story never came out, Fitzgerald likely would have returned to the program on Media Day and fielded a couple of questions about it, and the whole thing may have blown over; instead, the story forced Schill to reverse course.

July 8, 2023: Entire Northwestern football team releases a statement

Following the article’s release mid-day, a letter was circulated from the “entire” Northwestern football team saying the allegations were made up and they all supported Pat Fitzgerald. However, there were no signatures from the players on the team, so doubts arose about if the entire team signed this thing. While not a big factor in the grand scheme of the scandal, just another strange part.

July 10, 2023: Inside NU confirms hazing allegations and new allegations of racism emerge

I apologize to my employer for this day.

Roughly around noon, Bradley spoke with a former Northwestern football player, who confirmed the nature of the hazing inside the program. Furthermore, Iggy spoke with a former player who alleged that he experienced racism inside the program. At the same time, The Daily Northwestern received allegations of racism inside NUFB from multiple sources.

July 10, 2023: 670 The Score report on Jim Foster

As if to make this day even more crazy, 670 The Score broke the floodgates open on Northwestern baseball and Jim Foster. It was here that we first learned of the toxic culture created by Foster that led to nearly half the players transferring. In the report, Foster was accused of making racist comments, sexually harassing a female staffer and forcing injured players to not see the trainer. Just another day for Northwestern Athletics, and another thing to add to the dumpster fire of July.

July 10, 2023: Northwestern fires Pat Fitzgerald

The move that everyone saw coming, yet no one expected it. I was on a radio show at 3 p.m. saying I didn’t think Northwestern would fire Fitz because he was the face of the university; however, by 6 p.m., I was wrong. With the number of allegations growing, Schill decided to cut ties with Fitzgerald, ending his 17-year run at the helm of the program. The man who helped the ‘Cats rise to prominence, leading them to 10 bowl games, left the program unceremoniously. As if the school was not already going through enough s**t, players tweeted out that Gragg addressed the team via Zoom because he was on vacation in Europe, leading to calls for Gragg to be canned as well.

July 11, 2023: Inside NU releases expose on Jim Foster

As if our lives could not get any crazier, we had been working on an expose of Jim Foster. The night of Fitz’s dismissal, it was all hands on deck for Inside NU. Bradley, Ethan and I handled the aftermath of the firing, getting stuff written for the next day. Meanwhile, Gavin Dorsey, Iggy and Sophia Vlahakis combed through hours of interviews to put the story together. I ended up joining them once my column was written, listening to interviews to ensure we had everything 100% correct. All night, we combed through the story, going line by line to fact-check everything. I think as an executive board, the total number of hours slept that night was under two. We eventually got it up early Tuesday morning, but I ended up being like an hour late to work.

So once again, apologies to my employer.

July 13, 2023: Jim Foster “relieved of his duties”

This was a decision that surprised nobody. With the transfer portal closing at midnight, Gragg called a meeting with the entire baseball team, informing them that Foster would not return as head coach after just one season.

To quote a member of the baseball program: “Happiest day of my life.”

July 13, 2023: David Braun named interim head coach

The moment that changed Northwestern football history.

Braun took over the program after spending six months as the defensive coordinator. He had never been a head coach and had never even coached a snap at the FBS level. Yet, we all know the magic that happened next.

July 24, 2023: Hazing inside the volleyball program comes to light

Ok, time for an inside baseball story.

Bradley and I had been working on this story for over a week and were just waiting for final confirmation on some of the details of the story; however, we were beaten to the punch by a lawsuit. When the suit dropped, I was at work, sitting in the dunk tank as the kids missed again and again (yes, I was taunting them). During my lunch break, I checked my phone to see the press release from the law firm, and I had to bite my tongue to avoid cursing. What happened next is out of a comedy movie, because my esteemed colleague Bradley was fast asleep. Let me mention it was already noon.

First phone call, nothing. The second phone call, nothing. The third phone call, nothing. By this point, I left Brad the most expletive-laced voicemail of my life (I moved away from the children), and by the time he woke up, Iggy and I decided the story had to go up that day.

In our reporting, Bradley and I learned that Shane Davis was suspended in March 2021 for his involvement in hazing a player on the team, and that suspension was not announced to the public at the time. Furthermore, we learned Davis had to sign a document admitting his role in the hazing.

Just another day for Northwestern.

July 26, 2023: Big Ten Media Day

If you wonder what the travel experience from hell would look like, I have a story for you.

Anyway, this was the first time we heard from any member of Northwestern since the hazing scandal uprooted the program. Braun, in his first appearance as head coach, took questions for over an hour and passed that test with flying colors — which should have been a sign for the future. Not only did Braun speak to the media, but so did Gragg, who sat down with Revsine and Rittenberg. I asked the first question to the Big Ten commissioner, even though Brad strongly opposed.

All in all, it was an experience I’ll never forget.

July 26, 2023: Jim Foster was not actually fired

Good old Michael Schill.

This was just bizarre. Bradley and I were driving back to Chicago from Indianapolis when The Daily’s article with Northwestern’s president dropped. In the interview, Schill told The Daily that Foster was not fired, but he was placed on “indefinite suspension.” I’m sorry... what? It didn’t mean much because Schill said Foster would never coach again at NU; however, it was just another strange moment in a summer full of them.

Aug. 9, 2023: ‘Cats against the world

Why? Just why?

On the only day of fall camp open to the media, numerous members of Northwestern’s coaching staff donned shirts with the words ‘Cats against the world, with Pat Fitzgerald’s No. 51 on it. The shirts went viral on Twitter, drawing condemnation from across the sports world. In fact, Dr. Gragg released a statement later that day calling the shirts “inappropriate, offensive and tone deaf.”

At the start of the season, assistant coaches were supposed to be available to the media during the weeks of the season, and more fall camp practices were supported to be open to the media. After this incident, that quickly changed.

Sep. 9, 2023: ‘Cats win in America

It took nearly 700 days, but Northwestern finally won a football game on American soil, thrashing UTEP 38-7.

The Miners were favored for most of the week, and the books looked correct when the teams went to the half tied at 7-7. In the second half, a dominant ground game secured the win for the Wildcats, and the streak was over.

Sep. 23, 2023: ‘Cats comeback against Minnesota

I don’t know how many teams overcame a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win the game, but I do know Northwestern was one of them.

The emotions of this game, from the world was ending to pure jubilation, reminded me why I love sports. Ben Bryant etched his name into Northwestern lore that night, throwing for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns, the first time a Wildcat QB has thrown four TDs since 2013. Also, Bryce Kirtz’s 215 yards were pretty good.

Oct. 21, 2023: Inside NU’s trip to Lincoln

From the world’s largest truck stop and beyond, the lore of this trip will live on forever.

Shoutout Iggy.

Nov. 5, 2023: Field hockey wins the Big Ten

Olivia Bent-Cole’s double-overtime winner was the lone goal of the game, giving the ‘Cats the title. It was a rock fight between two of the best teams in the nation, and Northwestern displayed why it should have been the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before it got gypped by the selection committee.

Nov. 15, 2023: David Braun named Northwestern’s new head football coach

#Tagremoved.

It was the easiest decision Gragg ever had to make. Braun had just led NU to a 24-7 stomping of Wisconsin on the road, the first time the ‘Cats had won in Madison since 2015. At this point, the ‘Cats were 5-5, a spot everyone thought was impossible when Braun took over in July. Yet, they were in that position in large part because of their head coach, so the interim tag came off, and David Braun was here to stay.

Nov. 18, 2023: ‘Cats go bowling

No one saw this coming.

After demolishing Wisconsin in Camp Randall, Northwestern returned for one last game in Ryan Field. Although it was not pretty, Xander Mueller sealed a 23-15 win over Purdue with an interception, bringing the Wildcats to that magical number of six wins.

Fans stormed the field to celebrate the win, surrounding their new head coach and chanting his name as he tried to do his postgame interview. As Braun put it in his post-game presser, “it’s pretty cool.”

Nov. 19, 2023: Field hockey falls short in National Championship

This was one of the best games I’ve ever watched. Annabelle Skubisz was lights out in net, including a crazy penalty shot save to keep the Wildcats alive in overtime. As if two overtimes weren’t enough, a round of shootout could not decide a winner. It turned to sudden-death shootout, and North Carolina brought home the trophy.

While the game did not fall NU’s way, it was an incredible season by Tracey Fuchs and Co.

Nov. 25, 2023: The HAT returns to Evanston

This game was drunk.

Dec. 1, 2023: Northwestern volleyball parts ways with Shane Davis

Davis’ eight-year tenure at the helm of the program concluded at the end of the 2023 season, with the ‘Cats finishing 15-15 and 9-11 in conference play. In his near-decade at NU, Davis failed to take the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament and never had a winning Big Ten record. Add in allegations of hazing and misconduct, and Gragg made the decision it was best to take the program in a new direction.

Dec. 1, 2023: ‘Cats down No. 1 Purdue (again)

Not often can you beat the No. 1 team in the nation twice in one year, but the Wildcats did.

On the back of Buie’s 31-point performance, NU held on for a 92-88 overtime victory. Ty Berry and Ryan Langborg both were lights out from beyond the arc, and the ‘Cats did just enough to overcome Zach Edey’s 35-point double-double, including the 14 fouls he drew against the ‘Cats’ big men.

For the second time in the calendar year, fans rushed onto the court to celebrate the victory. It was the third time Northwestern had stormed a playing surface against Purdue that year. Gregg Doyel is seething somewhere.

Dec. 23, 2023: Vegas baby

In the Sin City, Bryant became a Northwestern legend in front of our eyes, leading a game-winning drive just minutes after being knocked out of the game with an injury. A beautiful pass, in the corner of the end zone to Kirtz, gave NU a 14-7 lead. The ‘Cats’ defense balled out all game, forcing three turnovers, and sealed the win with a stop.

To close out his first season, Braun was met by a Gatorade bath and a bowl trophy. I’ll admit it: that team proved me wrong.

All in all, it was a crazy year. We cannot thank you enough for spending your time interacting with us, and we cannot wait to see what’s in store in 2024!!