Infamous fan at last Nebraska-NU tilt

Updated: October 19, 2012, 9:46 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips isn't one to bring attention to Chicago's criminal past, but he can't ignore the fact Al Capone attended the previous meeting between the Wildcats and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Evanston, Ill., on Oct. 3, 1931, three days prior to Capone going to trial on charges of tax evasion.

"I did not know about that until someone brought it to my attention," Phillips said while laughing. "In Chicago's history, there's good and bad. We're just excited to welcome Nebraska back to Ryan Field and Evanston."

The Associated Press reported Oct. 3, 1931, that "Forty thousand persons gave 'Scarface Al' Capone the 'Bronx Cheer' Saturday at Northwestern university's Dyche stadium in Evanston.

"The gang leader, accompanied by 'Machine-gun Jack' McGurn and several henchmen, was jeered and hooted by the vast throng attending the Northwestern-Nebraska football game when he arose and departed at the end of the third period.

"Capone and his party occupied in the 45th row and were targets for an intermittent chorus of throaty jeers and boos all during the game. When he and his friends rose from their seats at the end of the third period, the chorus became a might crescendo that swept over the huge stadium.

"The Capone party walked hurriedly and apparently somewhat abashed to the nearest exit."

Shortly after watching part of what turned out to be a 19-7 Northwestern win, Capone was found guilty Oct. 17, 1931, and was given an 11-year sentence Nov. 24.

Northwestern and Nebraska will meet for the sixth time Saturday. Last season, the Wildcats upset Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. The Cornhuskers own a 3-2 lead in the series.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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