Athletics at NU

The Northwestern Wildcats football team plays at Ryan Field (formerly known as Dyche Stadium); the basketball and volleyball teams play at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Before 1924, they were known as “The Purple” and unofficially as “The Fighting Methodists.” The name Wildcats was bestowed upon the university in 1924 by Wallace Abbey, a writer for the Chicago Daily Tribune who wrote that even in a loss to the University of Chicago, “Football players had not come down from Evanston; wildcats would be a name better suited to [Coach Glenn] Thistletwaite’s boys.” The name was so popular that university board members made “wildcats” the official nickname just months later. In 1972, the student body voted to change the official nickname from “Wildcats” to “Purple Haze” but the new name never stuck.

The Northwestern Athletics’ mascot is Willie the Wildcat. However, the team’s first mascot was not Willie, but a live, caged bear cub from the Lincoln Park Zoo named Furpaw. In fall 1923, Furpaw was driven to the playing field to greet the fans before each game. After a losing season, the team decided that Furpaw was the harbinger of bad luck and banished him from campus. Willie made his debut ten years later in 1933 as a logo, but did not actually come to life until 1947, when members of the Alpha Delta fraternity dressed up as him during the Homecoming parade.

Athletics at NU

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