Many of you know I’m an alum of Northwestern University, graduating just prior to the Rose Bowl season of 1995. I’m a huge NU football fan and I was exhausted from watching the Outback Bowl on New Years Day, the 38-35 overtime loss to Auburn, what might have been one of the wildest finishes ever in college football.
Northwestern men’s basketball, however, is still fighting its way into respectability. Will they reach the same level of success as NU football? Can I tie this into lean?
As our 1996 Rose Bowl coach, Gary Barnett, had always said, “There are no moral victories for Northwestern.” This was true on Friday, but I was proud of our Wildcats for fighting back from two 14-point deficits and never giving up. That’s a great “lean” personality characteristic to have, always working and fighting in the face of adversity on the football field or in any workplace.
While we are clearly no longer the perennial doormat of the Big Ten, the football team went without a bowl appearance from 1949 to 1996. We still haven’t won a bowl game since 1949, losing all seven of the games we’ve played in the last 15 years.
The NU basketball team has the unfortunate distinction of being the ONLY team from one of the six NCAA Division 1 “power conferences” to NOT make the NCAA men’s basketball “March Madness” tournament. The team was in the news this week for cracking the AP Top 25 rankings (at #25) for the first time in forty years, the longest drought in major college hoops history.
While watching the hoops team lose to Michigan State Saturday night, I read this blog post from ESPN that talked about the basketball team slogan for the year. These slogans are often used for marketing purposes. From ESPN:
…this year’s Northwestern fan and team slogan is incredibly funny. It is, simply, “Make Shots.” Usually team t-shirt slogans are something inspirational or ostensibly full of deep basketball insight. Not this. “Make Shots” might be the least inspirational, and therefore the most honest, team slogan of all-time. I love it.
I’m not sure I love it. Ah, slogans, one of the things Dr. W. Edwards Deming railed against. We’ve all seen our share of silly slogans and posters over the years. This one might rank up there with the most inane of them.
Gary Barnett, again harkening back to the early 1990’s, instituted a new football team slogan that said “Expect Victory.” While “Make Shots” is just an exhortation, there was much more meaning behind “Expect Victory.” People had become far too comfortable with losing at Northwestern and Barnett wanted to shake that up lethargy. He wanted people to be upset if we lost (and this included the players).
I guess this was a case of a slogan working… but it was far more meaningful than “Make Shots.” I think I’m not just making excuses for “Expect Victory” because that slogan led to good results, eventually.
In a factory, “Make No Defects” would be an empty slogan. Would “Expect Quality” be more meaningful?
On the whole, I’m still not a believer in slogans, especially when there’s no change to the system to help make the goal of the slogan possible. What do you think?
Oh, and as current Coach Path Fitzgerald (a national Defensive Player of the Year on that NU Rose Bowl team) ends every interview or press conference…. “Go Cats.”
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down to post a comment. Click here to receive posts via email. Learn more about Mark Graban’s speaking, writing, and consulting.