We can spend all week bickering about whether the loss to Louisville means the end of the football season or what bowl we're going to go, if at all.....or we could do something more pleasant - start basketball season. Our first opponent? The team that shocked the world in last year's NCAA men's basketball tournament - the Wolfpack of Northern Iowa.
(oh, and let's not be all Southern fratty in saying "oh, the basketball team had a game today" as if it doesn't matter, because you better believe that when it's basketball season, NOTHING can override that.
History: Iowa wanted to have a school for training teachers, as well as a place for Civil War orphans. As a result, the Iowa State Normal School was founded in 1876 by the state legislature. Central Hall was the school's oldest building until it burned down in 1965. The school went under many names, including the Iowa State Normal School, then the Iowa State Teachers College from 1934, then the State College of Iowa in 1961, and then UNI since 1967. The Central Hall was replaced with Gilchrist Hall after the first principal.
Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa. The city was founded in 1845 by William Sturgis, who named the city Sturgis Falls. However, the name was changed because of the proximity to the Cedar River. After building its economy on milling, the economy is now dominated by UNI, and the city is close to Waterloo.
Academics: UNI has just over 11K undergrads, and just under 2K grads. US News ranks it as a Tier 1 school, but in the Midwest Regional Universities category. They rank it 15th in that regard. UNI publishes the North American Review, one of the nation's premier literary magazines, founded in Boston in 1815. They also have a celebrated greenhouse used for research and botany, as well as a program for non-English speakers.
Notable Alumni: Not too many big names went to Northern Iowa....yet....except one. Mark Steines is the co-host of Entertainment Tonight. Several artists went to UNI, including Pamela Levy and Michael Boyd. NBC correspondent Tom Pettit is an alum, as is the senior producer at National Public Radio. And of course there are your local politicians who haven't gained much national notoriety.
Pageantry: Northern Iowa's nickname is the Panthers, and they've been so since at the earliest 1931. I couldn't find much else related to the history of the name, but they didn't want to be the teachers or whatever. The other Division I schools called the Panthers include Eastern Illinois, Georgia State, High Point, Prairie View A&M, and of course, Pittsburgh. For the non D-I schools called the Panthers, look here. The official colors are Purple and Old Gold. I can't find a complete D-I list of school colors (well, I can, but not one that has UNI on it), although I think Washington also refers to its gold as Old Gold.
Northern Iowa's fight song is called "UNI Fight!" and it goes like this:
Hail our Panthers, we are ever loyal, Showing our strength and unity. As we rise, we firmly stand behind you, Urge you on to victory. Rah! Rah! Rah! As you lead us on to fame and honor, Fight! Fight! Fight! will be our cry. So, give us a yell, Ho! the purple and the gold, Victory for UNI!
The song was written by a men's gymnastics coach.
(Sorry, I did a LOT of research on the web and there isn't much UNI info, even on the UNI site).
Athletics: Northern Iowa is I-AA for football and competes in Division I in all other sports. They joined the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1923 and stayed there until 1935. They then joined the North Central Conference and competed in that conference until 1978, then joined the Mid Continent Conference (now the Summit Leauge) in 1982. They remained a member until 1991, and then joined the Missouri Valley Conference in all sports except football, which joined the Gateway Football Conference (currently the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which is not affilliated with the regular Valley). They've always been a wrestling independent.
The ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia was written before this happened. Of course, most casual basketball fans remember UNI for this moment last year. Ali Farokhmanesh sunk the big 3 that upset last year's title favorite, the Kansas Jayhawks. Most fans were stunned, but hardcore CBB fans actually knew UNI was a good team (and of course this means Syracuse has been to a Sweet Sixteen more recently than Kansas has :P) The school won three conference regular season titles (the 1990 Mid-Contintent title and the 2009 and 2010 MVC titles), and they won three Valley tournaments (2004, 2009, and 2010), have been to six NCAA tournaments (1990, 2004-2006, 2009, 2010), and of course went to last year's Sweet Sixteen. Of course, most of their success has been in recent years, but that's certainly better than having success a long time ago (oh hello Indiana State!). They currently play in the McLeod Center, and formerly played in the UNI Dome. Ben Jacobson is the coach. Oh, and their first year was 1900.
UNI's football program is one of the more succesful I-AA programs, and is probably better than a lot of the I-A teams. They began playing in 1895, and have won two IIAC titles, twelve NCC titles, three MCC titles, and fourteen Valley/Gateway titles. Before the I-A-I-AA split, UNI was permitted to play in bowls, and they have two under their belts: the 1960 Mineral Water Bowl (lost to Hillsdale College) and the 1964 Pecan Bowl (beat Lamar). They also challenge I-A foes frequently, coming close to beating Iowa last year and beating Iowa State several years back. Kurt Warner played for the Panthers in college. The team is currently coached by Mark Farley, and still plays at the UNI Dome.
UNI claims the 1949 wrestling national championship, and they sadly lost their storied, 100 year baseball team last year. Even sadder, like most teams west of the Appalachians, they have no lacrosse.
Rival: Most UNI students would consider their rival to be....Iowa or Iowa State, and they do play frequently in most sports. UNI's most competative rivalry, though, is with Drake, and they also maintain a rivalry with Southern Illinois.
Outlook: This is a VERY early test for the Orange. Right away they go up against an upper tier mid-major. Knowing Northern Iowa can trap teams if they're not careful is a huge plus. Hopefully, though, Scoop will lay off the Chipotle, Kris will show off his stuff, and we'll be very impressed with Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, and CJ Fair. Time to SHUT IT DOWN!!!!