Hey, where are all the Wildcats bars in Wrigleyville? Exactly. Though the Big Ten Conference prides itself on its fusion of academic excellence with athletic accomplishment, too often alums of the various schools leave their brains behind when it comes time to gather with the tribe and cheer for the alma mater on the gridiron or the hardcourt. Northwestern, which is the smallest school in the Big Ten and the only private university left (crosstown rival University of Chicago dropped out of the conference it co-founded in 1946), not only sets itself apart academically, but also in its fans’ understanding of the proper role of sports in life. That’s not to say they don’t support their team—take in a football game at Ryan Field to watch the 7-2 Big ‘Cats and you’ll swim in a sea of purple and an appropriate level of spirited collegiate cheering—but they do so with a level of comportment that their rivals would do well to emulate.
Audience choice: Northwestern
Best of Chicago 2012