Crying Northwestern Kid From 2017 NCAA Tournament Goes Viral Once Again

John Phillips dons a Northwestern sweatshirt.

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The “Crying Northwestern Kid” from the 2017 NCAA Tournament is going viral during March Madness once again. The fan was spotted on the tournament’s opening night, leading many to remember the infamous meme that took social media by storm.

John Phillips is the name of the fan, and his face is making its way around the internet yet again. Here’s why.

First, let’s go back to that ’17 Big Dance.

The Northwestern Wildcats found themselves in a matchup with Gonzaga in that tournament field, which provided viewers with both an exciting game and an unforgettable reaction.

The Zags controlled that ballgame early, holding a 17-point lead midway through the second half. NU wouldn’t go away, though, and they soon cut that lead to single digits. With the Wildcats rolling, it appeared that they’d dig into that deficit even further when a teammate found Derek Pardon down low for a dunk.

That slam attempt was blocked by Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, though it looked like the center’s hand was inside the rim on that rejection. Replay later confirmed that a goaltending call should’ve been made, but it wasn’t. The refs missed it, taking two points off the board for the ‘Cats.

To compound things, head coach Chris Collins was then tagged with a technical foul for questioning officials, which began a 19-7 Gonzaga run.

Knowing that Northwestern fans would be frustrated with the series of events, cameras panned to the crowd. They soon focused in on Phillips, and the “Crying Northwestern Kid” meme was born.

Social media erupted with reaction to the scene.

It’s a moment that resonated with fans across the country.

Fast forward to 2023, and the then 12-year-old fan has made another appearance at the NCAA Tournament. John Phillips is actually the son of ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips. In 2017, Jim was the Northwestern AD.

The Crying Northwestern Kid made was spotted by cameras during the “First Four” matchups, sitting courtside with his father. The image immediately took fans back to that viral moment.

We’ll likely see a bit more of Phillips and his father in the coming weeks as ACC programs continue to compete in the Big Dance.