What's Going On With The Crown Tower?

Several readers, who are either current students at NU or live near campus, have noticed that the Crown Tower clock face now occasionally shines white, instead of purple.

Why is this unusual?  Because it does not fit with the tradition surrounding the clock face and NU football.  In 1995, as the Wildcats progressed through their amazing Big Ten season, the school decided to have some fun and light the Crown Tower clock face purple after a 'Cat win.  The clock face remained purple until the football team lost, when it reverted to its usual white.  When the team won again, the clock's color would again be purple.

For the first two seasons of the new tradition, NU lost its last football game of the season (the Rose and Citrus bowls), so the clock stayed its normal white during the off-season.  However, in 1997 NU beat Iowa in its final game, and the school decided that the clock should be purple for the entire off-season.  The 'Cats also beat their last opponent in 1998, and again the clock stayed purple.  It became an additional incentive for the team to win its last game each year, although NU wasn't able to do so until 2006.

A couple of years ago, however, a new wrinkle entered the clock color tradition.  The women's lacrosse and tennis teams won national titles during a time that the clock face was white.  In honor of these national championships, NU returned the purple to Crown.

But now the clock face is no longer constantly purple, even though Northwestern defeated Illinois in its 2006 season finale.  Why?

NU student Lauren Bradley wanted to know why as well: "The clock tower was changed to white sometime early this quarter.  I was impressed (and glad) to see it still purple when I returned from winter break (as I thought they might try to slip the purple-to-white transformation in there), but my excitement was crushed recently when it was changed back to white.  I appealed to those in charge and received an apologetic but unwavering response."

The university's response was that, after "much discussion," NU decided that "leaving the clock tower purple during the off-season would remove the ability to showcase other athletic events throughout the rest of the year and might 'dilute' its significance."

The school's decision is understandable, but the clock tower tradition was originally a Wildcat Football tradition.  Tweaking the tradition to celebrate national championships in other sports seems appropriate, but using the clock to note wins and losses in all sports seems a bit confusing.

Oh well.  Since is an NU football fan site, the photo on the front page of this Website will no longer follow what the real Crown tower is showing, but what it should be showing, based solely on the football team's most recent game.