Vanderbilt backs out of NU football series
Venric Mark carries for Northwestern during its victory over Vanderbilt in September. (Getty Photo / October 18, 2012)
As first reported by the Tribune on Thursday, Vanderbilt officials blindsided Northwestern by canceling their 2013 and 2014 football games.
And they did it in the coldest possible way — with a letter sent via U.S. mail. Vanderbilt officials could have called to offer an explanation or done it face-to-face as they toured NU’s athletic facilities before the teams met Sept. 8 in Evanston.
The Southeastern Conference school ditched both Northwestern and Ohio State, opting for a 2013 nonconference slate of Austin Peay, Massachusetts, UAB and Wake Forest. Vanderbilt spokesman Rod Williamson did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The Wildcats swept a recent home-and-home series, and NU’s top-end talent is in its freshman and sophomore classes.
The 2013 game with Vanderbilt was scheduled for Sept. 14 in Nashville, Tenn. The 2014 game would have been Sept. 13 in Evanston.
Northwestern will be out some cash after signing a hotel contract, and the school has to scramble to find a new opponent or two to fill the vacancies.
The contract buyout was low because Northwestern considered Vanderbilt a peer school. Not anymore.
The news will be applauded by fans who felt NU’s nonconference schedules in 2013 (at California, Syracuse, at Vanderbilt, Maine) and 2014 (Cal, Vanderbilt, Western Illinois, at Notre Dame) were too rigorous.
NU officials will consider every possibility to fill the voids. Athletic director Jim Phillips came from Northern Illinois, so he has ties to the Huskies and other Mid-American Conference schools.
While at Notre Dame, Phillips worked with Bubba Cunningham, now the AD at North Carolina. Minnesota paid $800,000 to buy out of its 2013 and 2014 games with the Tar Heels.
Northwestern has some flexibility because of open dates in Week 5 of 2013 and Weeks 2 and 5 of 2014.