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October 15, 1998 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-10-15

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16A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 15, 1998

'Tough' Bates returns for Wildcats
Back from injury, Northwestern's star wideout seeks another bowl game

By Mark Snyder
Daly Sports Editor
In the first game of the season, no one thinks
about injury - least of all an All-America candi-
All thoughts focus on the future and what's to
But when Northwestern wide receiver D'Wayne
Bates was helped from the field in the 1997 season
opener after breaking his leg, 'what's to come'
became 'what might have been.'
Bates watched from the sidelines as his team-
mates fell into the old ways of the Wildcats. When
Bates was active during his freshman and sopho-
more seasons, two straight Big Ten championships
came to Evanston.
But as a passive observer, a poor record just
compounded his helplessness.
His season totals were one-game totals: three
catches, 40 yards and thousands of what-ifs.
"Yeah, I was a little depressed not being able to
play last year," Bates said. "But being 5-7 and
missing a bowl game - that was depressing."
The Northwestern bashing of the past have tem-
pered with recent success, and that taste of victory
keeps these Wildcats excited - especially Bates,
who yearns for another bowl game.
fter two consec-
utive Big Ten
Northwestern .7
coach Gary
Barnett suffered
a 5-7 season last
year. This year,
Barnett seeks to
return to his pre-
vious winning
Photocourte oThe
Daily Northwestern

"It isn't the same staying at home for Christmas,
watching the (bowl) games on TV," he said. "It was
a learning experience."
Most of the education for the fifth-year senior
came while sitting out a year, though.
"I just want to get back to where I was last year,"
Bates said. "It's been a year, and I've got a fire
burning inside me to play."
That internal fire vaulted him into the national
limelight two seasons ago, when he took advantage
of his veteran quarterback, Steve Schnur.
Their rapport established Bates as an impressive
target and his statistics followed suit. In 12 games,
he snagged 75 balls for 1,196 yards and 12 touch-
downs as the 'Cats rolled. The dozen scores set a
Northwestern record for a tandem, but that was just
the beginning for Bates.
Already this season, he has leapt to the top of
the Northwestern receiving charts in nearly every
statistical category.
Among career records at the school, he ranks
first in yards (2,709), consecutive games with a
catch (27) and 100-yard receiving games (12).
But for the two-time member of the Biletnikoff
"watch list," he's just happy to be back on the field.
"I just want to get out and play," he said.
Northwestern coach Gary Barnett realizes his

job becomes much easier with No. 5 in uniform.
"He makes me sleep better at night," Barnett
said. "D'Wayne is one of the kind of players you
want. He has overcome adversity of all sorts. It's
kind of like having a coach on the field. Anyone
who talks to him goes, 'wow'."
By the end of the season, Bates may be among
the nation's most talked-about players.
Throughout the history of the Big Ten, no play-
er has gained more career yards than Illinois'
David Williams, who played from 1983-85. But
Bates is making a charge on the mark. If he main-
tains this season's torrid yardage pace - he's aver-
aging 97.3 yards per game - the record will be
When Saturday comes, Lloyd Carr will be doing
everything possible to avoid adding to that infamy.
Carr's focus will be on Bates' talents and how they
can slice and dice Michigan's depleted defensive
"He's an outstanding athlete and he's a big tar-
get," Carr said. "The thing I always look for in a
receiver is can he catch the ball away from his
body. To make the great catches you have to be able
to do that. He runs with the football after he catch-
es it. He's a tough guy. He's not intimidated by con-

Photocourtesy ofTreoly Northwestern
D'Wayne Bates, Northwestern's all-time career receiving leader, has returned to
the lineup this season after a leg injury sidelined him last year.

Barnett looking for respectability - again

By Sharat Raju
Daily Sports Editor
The city of Chicago never really
had a collegiate athletic program to
root for.
The University of Chicago - one
of the founding members of the Big
Ten and a producer of football pio-
neers such as Amos Alonzo Stagg -
dropped out of the conference in
1940, focusing primarily on acade-
DePaul, located in the heart of the
city, had marked success in basket-
ball especially in the 1980s, but is
now rebuilding after the Meyer Era
ended with former coach Joey
Meyer's firing.
Illinois is pretty far south of the
city, about three hours away. The
closest successful athletic program is
Notre Dame, which is just about as
far away as the Fighting lllini are.
But one man managed to energize
the City of Broad Shoulders, revital-
izing college football excitement on
the lakefront.
Gary Barnett, Northwestern's foot-
ball coach, brought big-name college
football to Evanston, the old suburb

nestled on Lake Michigan just north
of the city.
Nobody cared about Northwestern
football - or anything else at
Northwestern other than academics
- before Barnett arrived. The
Wildcats were a punchline in
Chicago. Saying 'Northwestern foot-
ball' was just about as funny as say-
ing 'sperm whale,'
So Barnett had to regain the pub-
lic's respect as well as build a con-
ference contender from scratch,
essentially. The first step was to re-
design to uniforms to include black,
lessening the purple's effect.
The next step was to win some
ballgames. That step would take a lit-
tle longer.
Barnett told the student body
before his first game in 1992 that he
would bring the Wildcats back to the
Rose Bowl, that he would make a
winner out of the program.
People laughed at him, especially
since he had never coached a team in
a major conference before. But he
made that Rose Bowl promise often
over the next three years, even
though he finished with paltry

records - 3-8, 2-9 and 3-7-1. People
were really laughing then.
But that one year - 1995 - that
one absurd, odds-defying season,
Barnett ignited the Chicagoland area
with Rose Bowl fever, finishing 10-2
and winning the Big Ten champi-
onship outright.
"I can tell you once it was deter-
mined we were going to the Rose
Bowl, everything went turbo,"
Barnett said.
Everything. The team was on the
box of Wheaties. The Wildcats were
in the big city papers every day.
Suddenly everyone, everrone, was a
Northwestern fan.
Alumni who never admitted they
ever attended Northwestern proudly
donned purple-and-white sweat-
shirts, brandishing "Wildcats" across
their chests.
Although the Wildcats lost to
Southern Cal in Pasadena, Barnett
received 18 coach of the year awards,
16 of them national ones.
And the next season, Barnett did it
again, sharing a co-Big Ten champi-
onship with Ohio State and losing in
the Citrus Bowl to Tennessee. He

was named the Big Ten coach of the
year for the second consecutive sea-
"It was a mystical experience for
me and our team," Barnett said.
"I'll do anything ethical to go bacli
the Rose Bowl."
The bandwagon was full back
then, but now there is a lot of space
on board.
Last season's 5-7 bowl-less perfor-
mance left many people asking if the
previous two years were a fluke, if
the magic was gone from Barnett's
fingertips. To that end, Barnett has
been doing everything he can to p
vent returning to the dismal days
"I purposely watched every playof
every game" in the offseason,
Barnett said. "It was like a punish-
Now, Barnett's motivational skili
- which before was hailed as among
the best in the country - is under
"If not going to a bowl game did-
n't hurt, if it didn't bother them, to
can go through it again," Barnett

TIPOFF '98 - ON Nov. 12.


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