EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — No college football program spent more time in the spotlight in the offseason than Northwestern. Now, the team hopes the headlines center on victories.
The Wildcats are ready to move on after a disappointing season and an offseason at the center of the debate over unionization.
A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled in March that Northwestern's full scholarship players can bargain with the school as employees, sending shockwaves through the sports landscape.
Whether the Wildcats support unionization is unclear. They voted in April, but the result is not known because the NLRB impounded the ballots pending an appeal by the university.
No matter how the vote went, quarterback Trevor Siemian and coach Pat Fitzgerald said the discussion helped bring the team closer.
"I think it gave us an opportunity to discuss and connect on things at a little bit of a higher level than ... 'what are you getting for dinner?'" Siemian said. "In doing so, you establish these relationships with guys maybe you wouldn't have established with, and it was good for us. I think it unified us and I think we came out better after it."
How that translates to the field remains to be seen.
The Wildcats were hit with two major blows Wednesday when the school announced running back Venric Mark, who was recently suspended for the first two games of the season, will transfer and receiver Christian Jones will miss the season with a knee injury.
Those are two big losses for a team that fell far shy of expectations last year at 5-7 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten.
The Wildcats were aiming high coming off a 10-win season and their first bowl victory since the 1948 team won the Rose Bowl, but things fell apart after a promising start. Northwestern was 4-0 and leading Ohio State by 10 at home last season, only to bow 40-30 to the Buckeyes and start a seven-game losing streak. The first game is at home against California on Aug. 30.
Here are five things to look for this season:
NO MARK: The Wildcats will have to regroup without Mark. That means Treyvon Green likely becomes the No. 1 tailback.
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