Rose Bowl dreams become reality
By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnist

In the fall of 1995, I was living in a Wrigleyville apartment with two college buddies. I was leading the triple crown of "no prospects": unemployed, single and Northwestern football had its usual dismal forecast.

In turning around the most inept program in the country (by reputation, at least) and making good on his promise to "take the purple to Pasadena," Gary Barnett changed my sorry circumstances, giving me the most memorable fall of my life. For that, he became (and remains) my hero.

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  • How did he perform this miracle? He more than maximized his available talent (such as it was), but gained the extra edge through his uncanny psychological ploys, which worked on players and fans alike. Like a cult leader, he made us all believe -- no-names became All-Americans, the stadium became a rocking madhouse.

    Who needed a job? The weeks became a never-ending thrill-ride of pre-game build-up and post-game break-down. With ample free time and emotional capacity, I made clip-books and collage posters and -- long before the BCS -- did homemade calculations figuring out how the two polls could vault NU ever higher.

    My friends and I began checking off our list of apocalyptic signs (all based on the previous impossibility of Northwestern football success):

  • Beating Notre Dame!

  • Winning at Michigan's Big House!

  • A Top 25 ranking!

  • A Top 10 ranking!

  • "College GameDay" on location in Evanston!

  • An undefeated Big Ten season!

  • Keith Jackson announcing our game!

    And the Holy Grail: The Rose Bowl, a week-long L.A. love-fest for alumni everywhere.

    You had to understand Northwestern's football-punchline culture to fully appreciate how monumental the change was. Barnett was no coach; he was a miracle worker, and both the novelty and extent of the success -- plus my front-row seat to the entire thing -- made the experience once-in-a-lifetime.

    Getting Northwestern to the Rose Bowl? Whatever he did before, has done since or will ever do, he'll always be my hero.

    Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2. His "Daily Quickie" commentary appears every weekday morning.



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