The Football Powers of U of C and NYU

Submitted by Chrisgocomment on September 21st, 2008 at 3:48 AM

I’ve been a big fan of College Football most of my life.  Over that long time I’ve always wondered why big cities like Chicago and New York have no quality teams to represent them in today’s modern game.  I’ve been to Chicago many times and I’m always amazed at what a great city it is.  It’s a beautiful, fun and happening place.  The same goes for New York.  You have two of the biggest and best cities in the world, but no College Football.  Why?  I would think that recruiting to those places would be a breeze.

With Chicago, sure, they have Northwestern, but you can’t exactly say that they have much College Football history outside of the Rose Bowl’s they went to in the 1990’s.  Plus, if you’ve ever visited NW, it’s not even in Chicago.  Technically it’s quite a bit north of downtown, in Evanston, Illinois.  I will say this for NW: they have a beautiful campus right on the shores of Lake Michigan.  It's fantastic.  I imagine that if they didn’t have such stringent rules for acceptance their football program could be very good.

There is also the University of Chicago, which, as many of you probably know, used to be a huge rival of U of M, but eventually they decided to focus their school more toward academic excellence rather than gridiron excellence.  Boring.

As for New York, believe it or not they have some history to point to in the world of College Football that might surprise you.

The University of Chicago

Chicago had great teams in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  During that time they won 7 Big Ten Championships (What?  Huh?), including a Mythical National Championship in 1905.  Nicknamed the “Monster’s of the Midway” this school was quite a powerhouse.  It’s hard to imagine in today’s game, but if Chicago had maintained its top-flight program perhaps it never would have been “The Big Two and the Little Eight”, instead it would have been the Big 3.  Also, Ron Zook’s own brand of custom made snake oil would be useless, as many top recruits in the city of Chicago would pledge to the “Maroons of Chicago” instead of The Illini.  Also also, Little Brother would never have been admitted into the Big Ten, and Bo never would have called their Athletic Director a “Son of a Bitch” back in 1973 when Michigan got screwed out of the Rose Bowl.  Think about it.

However, in 1939 U of C decided to de-emphasis athletics and cut their football program.  They didn’t reinstate it for 30 years!  Now a day's they play football in Division III (or whatever the H they call it now).  I’m left wondering what the Big Ten (11) would look like today if Chicago kept their program together.  Perhaps the Big Ten would have had 12 teams instead of 11 and there could be a Conference Championship and there would be great rivalries amongst NW, Illinois and Chicago.  Also, we wouldn’t have to hear about how great Notre Dame is (Notre Dame is not great) and how the Big Ten so wants them to join but they are too sweet to do so.  Notre Dame’s acceptance into the Big Ten wouldn’t even be brought up.

New York University

New York University has a little history of its own when it comes to College Football.  I was shocked to learn that NYU’s very own Ed Smith is the model for the Heisman Trophy.  I’m not making this up.

Another factoid about NYU’s football program that many of you will find interesting is that a NYU game was the site of the first protest against the “gentleman’s agreement”.  No, not that “gentleman’s agreement”.  Apparently in the 40’s, before Rich Rod’s snake oil was invented, the “gentleman’s agreement” was meant to keep blacks off the football field.  Nice gentleman’s agreement.  So that’s what Tiller was talking about, what a dick.  Hey Tiller, the game has passed you by, by about 60 years, that is.

What’s Up With That?

We can all agree that a trip to New York or Chicago guarantees a kick-ass time.  There’s no question there.  So, why isn’t there more of a College Football presence in these great towns?  I’ll offer some half-ass made up reasons:

  1. There’s just no room, man, it’s tight up in here.  In today’s College Football there is an “Arms Race” going on.  Whoops, that link was wrong.  That link, along with “tight” is just not right.  Or maybe it is.  Anyway, I meant this arms race.  Michigan is spending $226 MILLION on the Michigan Stadium renovation.  That’s a boat load.  Before U of M started this grand project, those dastardly Bucknuts to the south went on their own spending spree, flopping down a tiny little $187 MILLION of their own (or, coming from car dealerships?) to fix up that shithole they call “Ohio Stadium”.  (FYI – if you look up at their rotunda, you will notice yellow flowers with a blue background…hey OOOO apparently the outcome of the dedication game went in Michigan’s favor so those Bucknuts painted it like that.  You got to love it that you’re most bitter rival has your team’s colors on their stadium.  Love it.)  Anyway, OBVS Chicago and New York just don’t have any space.  How are you to compete in this arms race (sorry) if you can’t build a gargantuan stadium of your own?  It’s just not feasible.
  2. Academia.  It appears, after my vast, vast, vast (VAST) research that U of C and NYU simply decided that their schools would focus like a laser beam on academics.  As you know, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for FOOTBALL.  While this strategery has worked for U of C, since they rank #8 in this study, it appears that NYU kind of screwed themselves, because they are only ranked #33, behind U of M!  Like, WTF NYU?  If you’re going to give up on the sweet sweet sweetness that is College Football, don’t be so lame academically, mmmkay?
  4. This article, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitutional, written by an old, old, old ass man named FURMAN BISHER (yes, he has the same name as some old, old, old ass school in South Carolina).  He offers no reason for these things.  He simple lists example after example of big city football going helter-skelter, willy-nilly and PUTT-PUTT!  
  5. That's it.  I cannot logically find a reason for these happenings, beyond the college administrations obsessive reach for academic focus. Without the burdon of supporting a gigantic athletic program, U of C and NYU can focus on what their true purpose is: to better our world through education and innovation.  Oh, right, I suppose someone should keep an eye on that stuff.  


chitownblue (not verified)

September 21st, 2008 at 9:25 AM ^

First, many large cities do not have major college football (as defined by a BCS school) teams residing withing their city borders:

1. New York (no)

2. LA (yes)

3. Chicago (no)

4. Houston (no)

5. Philadelphia (no)

6. Phoenix (no)

7. San Diego (no)

8. Dallas (no)

9. San Jose (no)

10. Detroit (no)

11. San Antonio (no)

Second, look at the location of major teams: UM (Ann Arbor), Oklahoma (Norman), Texas (Austin), Florida (Gainesville), Alabama (Tuscaloosa)...etc., etc., etc. Major football colleges don't exist in large cities.

Third, why? NYU and University of Chicago abandoned their programs because they were losing money, and couldn't rationalize pissing money away on football when they could actually spend the money on something that gave the students a tangible benefit.
U of C, specifically, was being left behind in an arms race, trying to compete with Big 10 school while having an undergrad enrollment of 4,200 people (or, half the size of the tiny-for-D1 Northwestern).

Also, land: U of M, for instance, had a huge stadium, an indoor practice facility AND an outdoor practice facility - not to mention an entire campus building devoted to the administration of the team, and a devoted weight room. It can - the school spans nearly 3200 acres. U of C? 200 acres. NYU? 310. The cost of acquiring the real estate to run a successful program in a city like New York or Chicago, even 100 years ago, would have been prohibitive. U of C, when you consider academics and size is much more comparable to Harvard than it is to a Big 10 school.

The country is full of small, largely non-competitive schools that break-even financially by offering themselves up as sacrifices to the BCS alter (see the Sun Belt, MAC, Big West, etc.) on an annual basis. These schools, largely, compete for nothing other than the stubborn pride of saying "We play D-I football". NYU and UC decided not to engage in the quixotic process.


September 21st, 2008 at 4:40 PM ^

There are a few other examples of decent to excellent schools besides the #1 of USC/UCLA

2. Cal (Berkley/San Francisco)

3. BC (Boston, obviously)

4. Georgia Tech, University of Georgia (Atlanta)

5. Miami (yes that Miami)

Other schools that are not as good yet not quite sacrifices:

U of Minnesota (MSP), Universities of:  Memphis, Cincinatti, Louisville, Pitt.


Your point is mostly valid, the Ivies, NYU, and Chicago focus more on academics than football, their enrollments don't justify a FBS level school.


September 21st, 2008 at 11:47 PM ^

...actually not near Atlanta. It's in Athens, and if I remember right, that's a couple of hours away. Not a huge city, either. Either way, good point. You could also add in U-Washington. Even though they suck now, they were a power not too long ago, and they're close to Seattle, aren't they?


September 21st, 2008 at 3:24 PM ^

I realize there is a big difference between the two divisions.  I was just pointing out that there were football teams in those areas.  And when the conferences were formed, it was not always a size thing.  Look at the Big 12, Baylor was only included for political reasons, namely the governor of Texas at the time went to Baylor, so he made sure that Baylor was included.  It is also not at all BCS=major program.  An FBS school is still a MAJOR football team no matter what conference  they are in.  All it takes to make a minor FBS team into a pretty damn good FBS team is a good coach and a few good recruiting years.  Look at Louisville, they had a few years of success and built on it, until they didn't have the coaches to compete and regressed.


September 21st, 2008 at 10:40 AM ^

LA - yeah, I meant to speak about USC/UCLA...but, as you can see I was finishing this up after a little bit of a late night. Whoops. I think the fact that USC/UCLA have major football programs is also due to land.....LA is huge!

chitownblue (not verified)

September 21st, 2008 at 10:44 AM ^

Is it telling that the only city on the list that has major programs have programs that routinely fail to fill their stadiums? Maybe.


September 21st, 2008 at 1:49 PM ^

Interesting topic....but when discussing the history of NY City college football, you must mention Columbia and Fordham.

Fordham had a famous team in the 1930s that was a big time contender for the Rose Bowl. They had the best lines in the nation, called the Seven Blocks of Granite. An undersized Italian anchored those lines. Somebody by the name of Vince Lombardi.

Alas, they failed to achieve their Rose Bowl dream when, IIRC, they dropped a heartbreaker late in the year to cross town rival NYU.....had NYU, Fordham and Columbia been able to maintain at the Div-1 level, you could have some pretty sweet CFB afternoons in the Big Apple.

But, those schools heyday took place a couple of generations ago.

Nice Diary!!!


September 21st, 2008 at 4:50 PM ^

I live in Chicago, and I just think people aren't too into the college scene here. Northwestern is only about a 30 minute el-ride from the loop, and yet their attendance is absolutely dismal.

Northern Illinois and Iowa did play at Soldier Field last year, and I remember driving by on Lakeshore and seeing a ton of people at the stadium. Blue Demons basketball is about the only college sport that gets any media attention, though.

It is a Bears town, I think.

chitownblue (not verified)

September 21st, 2008 at 6:34 PM ^

GNM, I live in Chicago as well. The reason why Northwestern doesn't get widespread support is NOT because people don't like college football here. It's because everyone that lives here went somewhere else - UM, MSU, ND, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana.

And yes, I limited my survey of schools to BCS schools in the ten largest cities. BUT, for those who criticize:

Boston College is not is Boston - it's in Chestnut Hill. Most of the students actually live in Newton.

Cal and Stanford are not in San Francisco - they are in Berkley and Palo Alto.
To claim they are in Boston and San Francisco would be akin to claiming Northwestern is in Chicago.

I realize that SMU, for instance, plays in Dallas, and is a D-I school. But if you actually read my post, the point is tha teams that exist merely as fodder for the improved record of BCS teams (like SMU) may be chasing an unattainable, futile goal.


September 21st, 2008 at 6:39 PM ^

That is one of the problems with this argument.  Whether a team is good or not depends on its history as well.  Look at SMU, they used to be an amazing power, but they got the death penalty and never recovered.  but now with June Jones, they may reach those heights again.  Its all about who you have and who you have had in the past.


September 21st, 2008 at 7:59 PM ^

That's an excellent point.  Perhaps Northwestern struggles with attendence because their alumni-base in Chicago is small compared with that of ther Big Ten schools.  It also bears mentioning that in-state schools (apart from UIUC's recent resurggence) are not traditional football powers.

 It would be nice to get a bowl game with somewhat local teams (think Big Ten No. 5 vs. MAC no. 2 or something) into Soldier Feild, but I doubt anyone would want to play somewhere so abysmally cold in the winter.

 I do somewhat doubt that all the twenty-something Big Ten grads running around Lincoln Park are died-in-the-wool fans of their alma maters, but I could be wrong.

 Go Cubs!

chitownblue (not verified)

September 21st, 2008 at 7:03 PM ^

There's no argument, pattymax. He wrote a post about U of C and NYU. If you want to bring other shit in, that's not in his post. My only point is that the largest cities in the country don't have major conference football teams. That's unequivocally true.


September 21st, 2008 at 9:04 PM ^ the shadow of it was a fun weekend over there.

But, yeah, chitown's point is dead on vis a vis alumni bases.....Chicago is amazing. Want to go to a Nebraska bar? Then head over to McGee's and you wont find a more crowded bar. Kansas....go to Kincaid' goes on and on, most Big 10 schools have several bars devoted to their fans.

There are tons of college football fans in town.....the pubs on Saturday afternoon prove that.....its just NW is not their team.

chitownblue (not verified)

September 22nd, 2008 at 8:12 AM ^

Washington is like 30 to 45 minutes from Seattle. Again, it would be like saying that UM is in Detroit.


September 22nd, 2008 at 11:48 AM ^

Nice Diary.

In my opinion, Chitown is right as to why Chicago doesn't have a dominant college football team. Chicago has a large number of people that went to school somewhere outside of greater Chicago, and come with preset college football allegiances . And UofC is more obscure to many people than the U of Illinois campus in Chicago.

Also, it seems that professional football seems to push out college football. I'm not sure that there is a means to test this theory. Is this the cause with the effect being so many of the large cities not having dominant college football teams? Or the other way around.

A couple of points that I don't recall reading in this diary that speak to UofC's football legacy.

Jay Berwanger was the first Heisman winner in 1935.

And the Victors was written following the 1898 Michigan victory over Chicago.


September 22nd, 2008 at 12:07 PM ^

nyc just isnt a college sports town. not that there aren't tons of cfb fans and whatnot (mostly midwest transplants), but its not at all like chicago or dallas. it doesn't fit with the culture of the city at all