During Louie Vaccher’s four years at Northwestern, the Wildcats won only 11 football games. That didn’t stop his love for the team, though, and he wanted to make sure that Northwestern fans had a place to come together and celebrate the ‘Cats. He now runs WildcatReport.com, Northwestern’s official section of Rivals.com, and gives the die-hard fans a way to stay connected outside of game day.
The site mainly chronicles the goings-on in Northwestern football, basketball and recruiting. It also provides an online space where Northwestern fans can share their thoughts and feelings about the team, creating a unique community within the greater Northwestern sports community.
Vaccher, a Medill alum who graduated in 1988, funds and runs the Web site. He came to Northwestern an ardent sports fan and, though the teams the university fielded in the major sports were not the greatest at the time, he developed a strong attachment to them. He went to nearly every game during school, despite all of the loses, and has actually only missed a handful since 1988. That’s not because he’s funded by the people at Rivals — he pays for it all out of his own pocket.
Wildcat Report is a small site compared to others on Rivals. Some of their other sites like TheWolverine.com and TheBuckeyeGrove.com have a full staff of writers providing content, while the content on Wildcat Report is largely just Vaccher’s responsibility. For about a year and a half before Vaccher, no one was able to run the site; Wildcat Report essentially went dormant. Now Vaccher posts an article almost every day, mostly about the status of potential Northwestern recruits. With no other real outlet for ‘Cats recruiting, WildcatReport has become the premier place to go for information.
When asked about Northwestern’s relative lack of fans compared to other Big Ten schools, Vaccher said he believes that Northwestern struggles to build a fan base because it attracts a such diverse group of students from all over the country. That includes people who may not have been sports fans before coming here and who may not necessarily have had any previous connections to the university.
Vaccher also believes that it’s tough to draw the average Chicago sports fan who’s preoccupied with pro-sports (even if their team’s working on a World Series drought that’s running longer than the Wildcats’ bowl game winless streak). If these regular sports fans do end up going to the Northwestern games, they often come to like what they see and are attracted by the Northwestern sports community.
Tim Nelson is one of those fans. He frequents the Wildcat Report forums under the username Turk182, and he actually has no connection to the university whatsoever. He first bought season tickets so he could see his beloved Buckeyes every other year. But the players, the community and the atmosphere eventually brought Nelson to become a ‘Cats fan. He now uses Wildcat Report as “coffee shop” — a tool for staying plugged into NU sports.
For him, the site has become a true community. It pulled together and supported his family when his son Joey battled cancer. One regular poster on the forums even took up a collection that helped his family in their time of need. Joey’s cancer’s has been in remission for six years now.
Looking at Wildcat Report shows that there are people out there who truly care about Northwestern sports and who have used sports in a positive way. Many of the fans on the board have already booked hotels at all of the potential bowl locations, and there is even a fund posted to help other members make the trip. As the ‘Cats keep putting together solid seasons, the Rivals faithful should only continue to grow.