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"The crying Northwestern fan" is trending online again, as many question where he has been since going viral

Braydyn The Bear Lents

John Phillips, also known as "the crying Northwestern kid" cried during the 2017 NCAA Tournament as Northwestern lost to Gonzaga that yearPhoto byOne Good Thing YouTube

During the First Four tournament basketball games to kick off the 2023 NCAA Tournament, viewers from across the nation tuned in to watch Southeast Missouri State loses in a nail-biting fashion over the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders, and Pittsburgh dramatically beat Mississippi State.

But viewers might have forgotten about one familiar face while watching the Pittsburgh/Mississippi State game. One that was so iconic in fact, he became the largest internet meme in NCAA Tournament history.

John (left) with his dad Jim Phillips (right) watching the 2023 NCAA Tournament's First Four matchup in Dayton, OH.Photo byMike Rutherford Twitter

During the game, as seen on CBS’ TruTV live coverage of the NCAA Tournament, sitting next to current the Atlantic Coastal Conference-ACC, commissioner Jim Phillips was a grown-up, yet spiffy-looking son John.

For those that don’t remember, John is one of five siblings in the Phillips family, as his father Jim was the head commissioner of the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament Selection Committee during the 2017 tournament, and was the Vice President for Athletics and Recreation, then as the school’s athletic director at Northwestern for 13 years according to Jim’s biography on the ACC Conference home website and the University of Northwestern News.

Jim Phillips at a Northwestern press conference when he was the athletic director for the school in 2018.Photo byUSA Today Sports

The website also points out that under Jim’s tenure the athletes he “… trained improved on test scores, received academic All-American honors, and helped get athletes to dream beyond the classroom as the school had a 98% student-athlete graduation rate.”

In 2017, Northwestern had a magical run to the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in the school’s history. Going 23-11 on the season, led by head coach Chris Collins, the son to former Chicago Bulls head coach, Doug Collins, and with NBA talent such as Vic Law, the Wildcats had a magical season for the ages, and the Wildcats fanbase was fired up after the team beat the Vanderbilt Commodores in a close 68-66 victory.

One of those fans in the stands for the Gonzaga game was Jim’s son John, one of five siblings in the Phillips family.

After Northwestern lost to the Bulldogs 79-73 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, John was forever known as the “Crying Northwestern fan” after the cameras showed him bawling his eyes out through the closing minutes of the game as fans had a field day using his crying gif image as both a pun and an internet joke.

He went viral seemingly overnight, and many Northwestern fans use both him and the Villanova Wildcats' “crying piccolo girl” from the NCAA Tournament two years prior in a Villanova loss to Houston, as moments to chuckle while watching or talking trash about a particular school.

Many were stunned to see Jim and his son John at the Pittsburgh/Mississippi State First Four game. The nation has wondered since the 2017 tournament, where did John Phillips, the crying Northwestern kid, go after all of these years?

Many are wondering if is he in school. Does he go to college? Does he work for a university? Where is his work? Does he have kids? A wife?

A young John Phillips in 2018, a year after he became a viral sensation as the "crying Northwestern fan" during the 2017 NCAA Tournament.Photo byArmando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune

The last time we heard of John’s ware bouts was in a March 19, 2019, article from The Chicago Tribune, and by then he had no braces on his teeth, was featured on tournament commercials, and got deals from companies such as Pizza Hut. His dad told the Tribune the Pizza Hut deals and the commercial deal was later used to profit two Northwestern charities that help students in need.

John Phillips as of today is now a college freshman at Harvard University and double majors in Government and EconomicsPhoto byJohn Phillips/Personal LinkedIn Page

After this article from the Tribune, details are sketchy as John was appointed as the ACC Commissioner role during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. Since then, John still calls the state of Illinois home, from what we know, as his son John attended a private Catholic high school, Loyola Academy, outside of Evanston, IL. in Wilmette.

According to his LinkedIn.com channel, he attended the Loyola Academy from 2018-2022. During this time, he became a youth soccer coach at the Trevian Soccer Club. On the side of being a soccer coach, he was also a busser at an exclusive Wildfire Restaurant in the town of Glenview, IL. In 2021.

The website also said that now he works as a part-time religious education teacher at St. Paul’s Parish, in the town where he now attends college at Cambridge, MA.

He presides in Cambridge because he is attending postsecondary education as a college freshman at the prestigious Harvard University. He is a member of the Class of 2026 and according to his LinkedIn page, he is pursuing a double major in Government and Economics.

Details of his family life since he became an internet trend are also sketchy because according to the Chicago Tribune article mention, his father has kept his son under a low profile to not use him as a profit tool for him, his family, or even for the schools he serves.

During the sights and sounds of March Madness, fans wondered for years where the “crying Northwestern fan” went, and for many diehard tournament fans, they finally have their answer.

Northwestern’s second NCAA Tournament appearance will kick off on Thursday at 7:35 pm as the Wildcats face the tenth-ranked Boise State Broncos on TruTV.

As for the Pittsburgh Panthers, they will square off against the sixth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones on Friday, March 17 at 3:10 pm on TruTV.

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Student at Indiana University Bloomington, journalism major, Class of 2024, sports media minor, staff writer/journalist for Hoosiers Network, freelancer "It's called the American Dream cause you have to be asleep to believe it." -- George Carlin

Bloomington, IN

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