Athletic communications stay light in welcome

In this Purple Wildcats Insider update, Steven Goldstein analyzes the Northwestern communications light-hearted approach to preface the Chris Collins hiring.

Staring at it for longer than a few seconds hurls your sanity across the computer monitor. It's a picture of a wide-eyed troll doll, complete with a bemocking grin and purple hair standing on end. Retweeted by Northwestern athletics' official Twitter account, it's the perfect encapsulation for everything that went down Wednesday.

Long before alarm clocks pierced and the day dubbed by Wildcat media as "Chris-mas" began, just about everyone knew that Duke associate coach Chris Collins would be replacing Bill Carmody. It wasn't even a secret that the finishing touches of a contract were being put into place Wednesday. With rumors running rampant and Wikipedia entries already set to name Collins as Northwestern's next head coach, @NU_Sports and friends went ahead and trolled Twitter.

Things kicked off Tuesday, when Northwestern basketball's account asked its followers to share their budding gossip. Then, at 9:31 a.m. Wednesday, Northwestern athletics urged Twitterers to "consider" following the basketball team.

Just an hour later, @NU_Sports was back at it, teasing an announcement for 2 p.m. That announcement, of course, was in regards to the Winter Academic All-Big Ten awards. Adding a #WhatElseAreYouExpecting hashtag was enough to make a Cat go crazy.

And so began the antsiest day of the year for Northwestern followers. Nearly every hour, a new leak came, and communications officials were on top of everything with a joke or wise crack. Wildcat fans knew of the looming hiring, and with tongues in cheeks and grins on faces, official Northwestern accounts still built suspense in the most fun way possible.

The troll retweet came in at 10:42, and less than two hours later, another picture was released. With prescribed burns on the Evanston campus' lakefill, @NU_Sports tweeted a photo of white smoke coming from the fires, quipping "Habemus Papam?"

Chris Collins likened to the Pope, right around the time you were breaking for lunch and squirting an entire bottle of ketchup on your sandwich out of pure frustration.

There were Phil Collins lyrics tweeted before 1. There were retweets of fans venting their bewilderment. At 4:18 p.m., @NU_Sports promised a "big announcement" at 5:30. That announcement was lacrosse lineups, as the No. 1-ranked Cats took on Ohio State on the Big Ten Network.

Speculations were sprawled across homepages; emotions were condensed into 140 characters. A potential nightmare for Northwestern's athletic communications was turned into a good ol' fashion round of teasing. And then another round. And then another.

The announcement became official at 9:41, and a torturous day was redeemed with retweets, emoticons and every other form of Internet celebration. It's a welcomed change of culture for Northwestern basketball, and if the Cats handle the ball like their Twitter handles, it's the first step toward bringing serious fun back to Welsh-Ryan Arena.

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