Photo: Northwestern University

Listen. I get it, really, I do—your football team’s strung together a couple 10-win seasons; you won a few bowl games; you even signed your coach to a shiny 10-year deal. Things are looking up, as they say, and you want to strike while the iron’s hot. But when Northwestern, the most uninteresting team with the loudest and most annoying fan base in media besides maybe Duke’s, is lighting up $270 million to build a new state of the art practice facility we’ve reached a new apex of college sports fuckery.

Northwestern apparently now leads all of college football in the never-ending practice facility arms race, with their new monument to avarice being shown off in a hefty and embarrassing 2,000-word profile from Yahoo Sports. The large building has 45-foot tall ceilings, sits on the edge of Lake Michigan, and, oh yeah, cost $270 million. It will play host to administrative offices, a handful of Northwestern athletics teams, and several intramural leagues. Again, this very nice building on a very nice spot cost more than a quarter of a billion dollars. For Northwestern sports.

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We all recognize that college sports, namely football, exist in this bizarro world separate from the free-market reality the rest of America is forced to dredge through, wherein players are not compensated with green pieces of paper for their labor but with four years of access to pools, slides, big hot tubs, in-house barbers, massage parlors, and a breezy track as a communications major, should they want it. It makes sense, in that bizarro world, that Northwestern would spend an ungodly amount of money on a new place just to practice because, well, that’s what everyone else is doing, and in college sports, the folks that run the show wholeheartedly believe that if you aren’t setting the trends, you’re falling behind.

Likewise, it makes sense that Yahoo’s Pete Thamel would give this expenditure a glowing review, because, well, it’s Northwestern and them leading the nation’s football programs in anything is news, even in bizarro world. Over the last three years, Northwestern has finally built something that resembles a Division I football program; seeing how much money fielding a good football team has made Big Ten brethren like Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan naturally meant that the Wildcats’ administration was going to do everything it could to get its hands in that big pot of money. Now that they finally have some, it’s time to set a bunch of it on fire so that they and every other NCAA member school can go on pretending the money to pay the players simply doesn’t exist. From Northwestern’s rise to its fundraising efforts for a new practice field to this handjob of a Yahoo story, nothing is out of character, or even all that surprising.

A brief but important reminder that Northwestern’s football players tried and failed to unionize several years ago. One of the main union-busters was current head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who gets an equally unctuous review in the Yahoo piece, which somehow makes no mention of the union efforts—I suppose it was tough to squeeze in accounts of Northwestern trying to buy “No” votes by giving players iPads or Fitzgerald publicly combatting the players’ movement through fear-based tactics when the other 2,000 words are busy taking you through Fitzgerald’s entire life story. The current crop of Northwestern players, who are starting to make some money for their school, will not be paid in dollars or post-college insurance policies or lifetime scholarships. They will instead be offered the same opportunity to wrack up all the long-term injuries that accompany the sport, only now they’ll have a slightly nicer view to slowly forget.