HTP Turns Twenty
Looking at HailToPurple after twenty years
In the spring of 1997, as workers were digging out the field of what
had been Dyche Stadium, I contemplated posting a website to document
the stadium renovation and to offer a history of football on Central
Street. However, I had just started a new job in Park Ridge and decided
to put off adding a fan site to the still-young world wide web.
It took three years for me to dust off the idea, and in July 2000 I
posted HailToPurple in its original form on AOL. The URL changed a year
later, but the page stayed the same: old-school HTML, in a format
popular during that initial dial-up era of the internet. And for twenty
years the site has stayed up (more or less—there have been a few down
weeks), featuring its retro tech and the goal of providing a view of NU
HailToPurple’s heyday was the mid-2000s. This was before the era of
blogs and before LakeThePosts created the ultimate NU fan site with
professional muscle. This was a period of anarchic collaboration with
Bob Cox, who owned FarEastWildcat.com. Bob provided commentary, while I
offered a history resource. It was a lot of fun, culminating in the
Arcadia book about NU football history in 2005. However, by the late
2000s my day job squeezed out the available time for the online hobby,
and a new family took priority. For a while, HailToPurple kept putting
out great new content with Jonathan Hodges providing original
commentary, but with Jonathan’s departure in 2012, the site became more
of an archive than an active site. The one exception was the Waterboy’s
stalwart commentary, which remains a goofy and insightful staple to
The site got a new breath of activity a couple of years later when Bob
had the idea of joining up again to produce our YouTube videos called
“’Cat Nips.” The show, intentionally low-budget and lower-effort, was a
blast to film and gave us a cathartic way to celebrate the ups and vent
during the downs of several seasons of Wildcat football. With Bob’s
passing just after the Ohio State game in Indianapolis, the video clips
were retired. Since then, HailToPurple has gone back to being more of
an archive site.
Things change. The college football world, even before the pandemic,
faced enormous changes in the last two decades. Player safety rightly
became a paramount issue, as did the concept of player compensation. NU
was on the forefront of that latter issue, when its players debated
joining a labor union and sparked a national debate on the subject.
During these twenty years at NU, we’ve celebrated an unexpected Big Ten
title that was powered by an ingenious offense, we’ve mourned Coach
Randy Walker, and we’ve benefitted from the exemplary leadership of Jim
Phillips and Pat Fitzgerald. Twenty years ago, there wasn’t a lot of
online resources for NU football fans. Obviously, there are plenty of
resources now, and plenty of commentary. HailToPurple no longer fills
that need—well, it never really did fill that need, but it liked to
pretend a lot.
People change. I have even less time now to manage the site, and for
the last couple of years new content has been rare. I thought that the
twentieth anniversary of HTP might be a good time to retire it, but
I’ll keep the site up as a resource for folks who want to dig into
uniform history details (there are literally tens of you out there) and
want to see what a website was like when Bill Clinton was president.
The 2020 season
This coming season, HTP’s twenty-first, might happen. It might not.
Either way, we’re in uncharted territory here, and I think that all
football fans—NU and others—are sharing an experience that reminds us
of the place of sports in modern American life and adds perspective.
Sure, sports is part of the “bread and circus” structure of communal
life, but let’s not take that point of view too cynically. The circus
is an important component of society, and not just as a distraction or
a way to channel id; it is a unifying experience; it gives bread a
little more vibrancy. Whether football this fall is truncated, or
postponed, or canceled outright, we will experience this tumult
together. It is just a different kind of circus, albeit one with more
stakes and not as much cheering. It still provides a common experience,
one that strengthens our ties if we act wisely.
We’ll get through the 2020 season of our discontent. If we choose to,
we’ll be stronger because of it. During this most unusual of periods,
let’s practice kindness to each other. Let’s remember that others are
going through unusual times as well, and we can never really know the
strain that others are enduring. Let’s be smart, and safe, and
compassionate. And let’s get ready, even if it seems a long time from
now, to break right through that line.