While in town this morning to announce a $1 million Gigabit Grant to the City of Evanston, Illinois governor Pat Quinn also gave Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald a special proclamation declaring Friday, Jan. 18, "Northwestern Wildcat Football Day" in the state of Illinois.
At an 11 a.m. news conference in coLab Evanston in the 900 block of Chicago Avenue, Quinn touted Northwestern's successful season that culminated in a Gator Bowl championship and a No. 1 rating in the "Academic BCS." He then read aloud part of the proclamation, declaring: "I hereby commend Northwestern University and the Wildcat football team for their spirit, their determination and their outstanding teamwork in winning the 2013 Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl. They did it together, they did it on behalf of everyone at this University and everybody in Illinois, and that is why today is Northwestern University Wildcat Football Day in the Land of Lincoln and the State of Illinois."
Quinn, a graduate of Northwestern's Law School, went on to convey his best wishes to the team for future berths in the Rose Bowl and BCS Championship bowl. Fitzgerald, NU Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips and Northwestern President Morton Schapiro then said a few words of thanks to the Governor.
Later in the afternoon, the Wildcats had an opportunity to collectively celebrate their Gator Bowl championships with their loyal fanbase for the first time during a pep rally at the Norris Center, Northwestern's on-campus student center. A substantial crowd of students, faculty and members of the Evanston community packed the Louis Room in Norris overlooking Lake Michigan, with the marching band providing live entertainment for those in attendance.
Festivities began with a viewing of the proclamation delivered by Governor Quinn earlier in the day, followed by a spectacular highlight reel from the Gator Bowl win over Mississippi State. The large group of football players in attendance appeared happy to relive the memorable plays from that game in the company of the fans who have cheered them to success all season.
Once again, Phillips, Schapiro and Fitzgerald addressed the Purple Faithful to thank them for their support this season and remind fans that this is only the beginning of what they anticipate being a sustained run of success for Northwestern Football. Afterward, fans took photos with the sleek Gator Bowl trophy and with the head coach who on New Year's Day became the winningest coach in program history.