No, that was not the score of what was likely the last game at Ryan Field.
It was the score of the first game.
Oct. 2, 1926. Northwestern 34, South Dakota 0.
Fast forward 97 years, and on Nov. 18, 2023, the Wildcats beat Purdue, 23-15, marking an amazing turnaround after a tumultuous off-season that saw the firing of long-time head coach Pat Fitzgerald, following allegations of hazing in the NU program.
At 6-5, the ‘Cats have already won two more games than they did in the past couple of seasons combined.
Interim Head Coach David Braun was given the permanent head coach title a few days before the Purdue game. Braun joined the program as defensive coordinator after the 2022 season.
Veteran season-ticket holders and NU alums Nicholas and Estelle Nicholson were tailgating at the game, as they have done for years (both received their degrees in the 1980s).
Nicholas said he’s “all for” the proposed new Ryan Field.
City Council is scheduled to take a final vote Monday on allowing construction of the new facility — and on allowing concerts.
A first-round vote on the proposals passed last month with Mayor Daniel Biss breaking the tie.
Nicholas said the new stadium, which will have only 35,000 seats (down from the current 47,000-and-change), will be “much more intimate,” and will also have “more 21st century amenities and be ADA compliant.”
Another season ticket holder, Gordon Scott, said one of his fondest memories is when students would “lake the posts,” pulling down the goalposts after a victory, parading all the way to Lake Michigan and tossing the posts into the water.
“We tried to start the teardown process back then,” for the stadium, Scott joked.
Assuming City Council says “yes” to the new stadium on Monday, the actual teardown should start soon, with a goal of opening the new Ryan Field in 2026.
There’s no word yet on where the ‘Cats will play in 2024 and 2025. Wrigley Field and/or Soldier Field are potential options, or perhaps somewhere else. No decisions have been announced.
Scott and the Nicholsons were excited about David Braun becoming the permanent head coach.
“It’s well deserved,” said Nicholas. “He will represent the university well in the 21st century.”
The current stadium had been named for William Dyche, NU alum, mayor of Evanston (1895-99), and supervisor of the stadium building project.
Despite a resolution at the time saying the name would not be altered, the NU Board of Trustees renamed it Ryan Field in 1997 for Patrick Ryan, board chair and NU athletics benefactor.
He’s the same Patrick Ryan whose name will go onto the new stadium (assuming it’s built), as he is contributing the majority of the funding.
The projected price tag is $800 million, which is about $798.5 million more than what the current facility cost to build in 1926.
While Patrick Ryan and his wife and Shirley were honored before the game with a brief on-field acknowledgment, there was no public mention of the new stadium. To do that ahead of council’s vote could have been a political blunder.
Band members and cheerleaders from the past 60 years were also honored.
With their sixth win, the Wildcats become eligible for a post-season bowl game, something no one would have expected before the season started.
Following the victory, NU students from the crowd of just under 24,000 rushed the field.
The goal posts, however, remained in place.