Best Basketball Players in Northwestern History

The Northwestern basketball program has flown under the radar in the Big Ten for decades. The school is known for their exceptional academic programs, but they are not known for sustained success in basketball or football. There are a few players who have set themselves apart from the rest during their careers at the school, and one name will jump out at the reader for very different reasons than they believe. This article shows players who have had amazing careers at the school despite its relative lack of success in the sport.

#1: Jim Burns

Jim Burns led in scoring all three years he started although freshmen were not allowed to play in his time. The period from 1964 to 1967 saw Burns become an All-American, and he earned all-academic honors for the school. His tenure with the program made Northwestern competitive, but he was not able to force the school into a more-competitive force. He had a lovely career at the school, but his career was not one where the school compiled wins in his honor.

#2: Drew Crawford

Drew is second in scoring in school history, leads the school in games played and he was a three-time selection to the All Big Ten team. His career occurred during a hard time for the team, and he was the one bright spot on the team. His tenure with the team allowed him a good look with pro scouts, and he was feared by other teams as he could score at-will. One player does not make a team, and Northwestern spent much of their time with Drew learning to win in a conference where Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana reign.

#3: Max Morris

Max Morris was a two-sport All American at Northwestern from 1944 to 1946. He is the last to do so in school history, and he is a man who brought glory to the team simply by playing a solid where the school did not have much else to turn to. His career began just as Otto Graham’s ended, and he continued a tradition at the school for having one player who is a cut above the rest. His prowess on the court was needed at a time when school like Indiana were making their mark on the sport, and he was left with the legacy of Otto Graham to uphold.

#4: Otto Graham

Otto Graham is best known as the hall of fame quarterback who took the Cleveland Browns to an NFL title before the Super Bowl era. His name conjures images of the early days of the NFL where the players wore leather helmets, they ran a running game with almost no pass and the quarterbacks ran the ball just as much as they passed it. His tenure at Northwestern began with a basketball scholarship, and he slowly branched into football over the years after his career at Northwestern ended. His name is famous for football, but it began as a big name in Northwestern basketball.

Northwestern basketball has featured a few players who have made an impact on the course of Big Ten basketball. The most famous of these is Otto Graham, and his name will stir even the casual sports fan who realizes he is an important figure in the growth of sports in America. He created a traditional at Northwestern that is fulfilled time and again by young men who come to the school seeking the finest education, sports glory and an opportunity to honor the wildcats. The next great player in school history may well be with the school now, and his path is yet to be written.

Greatest Games in Northwestern Football History

The Five Greatest Games in Northwestern Football History 

While the Northwestern Wildcats haven’t had much success on gridiron until the past two decades, there are still several games that stand out in Wildcats lore.

The following are five of the greatest and most significant games in Northwestern football history over the years.

1) 1949 Rose Bowl: Northwestern 20, Cal 14
Date: Jan. 1, 1949

At the time, the Big Ten had a no-repeat clause in regards to which conference representative went to the Rose Bowl. This allowed an 7-2 Wildcats squad to make the trip to Pasadena with defending conference champ Michigan ineligible.

Northwestern would ironically draw undefeated and No. 4-ranked Cal who were coached by Pappy Waldorf, a former Wildcats head coach. The current Wildcats head coach Bob Voights played under Waldorf at Northwestern.

The Wildcats were underdogs going into the game, but jumped to an early lead on Frank Aschenbrenner’s 73-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Wildcats had a 13-7 lead at halftime, but Cal grabbed the lead for the first time thanks to a short touchdown run in the third quarter. But, Wildcats running back Ed Tunnicliff took a direct snap and went 43 yards for the game-winning run. PeeWee Day would then intercept a late Cal pass to preserve the first bowl victory in Northwestern history.

2) Northwestern 19, Michigan 13
Oct. 7, 1995

This was the victory which may have finally cracked the ceiling hanging over the Northwestern football program. Earlier in the year, Northwestern opened with a surprising 17-15 win over No. 8 Notre Dame, but followed that off with a 30-28 home loss to Miami (Ohio).

However, No. 25 Northwestern was determined to prove they were for real when they arrived in Ann Arbor to face undefeated and No. 7-ranked Michigan. Darnell Autry ran for 103 yards and Steve Schnur hit fullback Matt Hartl for a 2-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter for the winning score.

Northwestern went on  to win the Big Ten title and advance to the Rose Bowl, the program’s first bowl appearance in 47 years. The Wildcats finished 10-2, marking their first winning season in 24 years.

3) Northwestern 54, Michigan 51
Nov. 4, 2000

In a high-scoring battle, the two teams rolled up a combined 1,189 yards of total offense. Northwestern running back Damien Anderson rushed for 268 yards and two scores. His Michigan counterpart, Anthony Thomas, ran for 199 and three scores.

However, Thomas fumbled the ball away with under a minute left when it looked like he had a game-clinching first-down run. Northwestern recovered and promptly marched down the field. Zak Kustok eventually hit Sam Simmons on a quick slant route for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left for game-winning score.

4) Northwestern 6, Minnesota 0
Oct. 31, 1936

On Halloween, the Wildcats snapped the 28-game winning streak by the Golden Gophers with a 6-0 shutout win. Minnesota game into the game as the defending national champions and ranked No. 1 in the country.

Instead, Northwestern won the game and claimed the No. 1 ranking for three weeks until a season-ending 26-6 loss to Notre Dame. Still, the Wildcats finished 7-1 and won the Big Ten title that year with a perfect 5-0 record.

5) 2013 Gator Bowl: Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20
Jan. 1, 2013

While the Wildcats finally starting to have success on the field since the mid-1990s, the albatross of having only one bowl victory in its history lasted a lot longer.
However, Northwestern finally broke the streak against the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. Quinton Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a Wildcats score less than a minute into the game while star running back Venric Mark and quarterback Trevor Siemian added second-half scoring runs. The two teams combined for seven interceptions, but Northwestern finally had its second bowl win.