I think Northwestern should go hard the other way. Say screw spending money on the new stadium. Go barebones with investing in your football program. Just keep cashing the soon to be $100M a year TV checks and invest in other sports. They could dominate all the Olympic sports (already do in a couple). And all it takes is a couple studs to win big ten titles in basketball (men and women). Maybe go after the best coach in every sport besides football and offer them a 25% raise to come to Northwestern. Shit, you got $100M a year to spend. Where is all that money gonna go anyway, especially if you aren't dumping it into football?
Hire the most innovative high school or junior college/D3 coaches for football. Pay them $500k instead of $7M. Maybe they win one or two games a year...probably not much different than what the next coach (making $5M to $7M) will do. Get a Hal Mumme/Mike Leach combo when they were still coaching high school or at Iowa Wesleyan. Or that high school coach who refuses to punt. Or maybe some smart as shit quality control assistant on an NFL team who has a new system to try.
Not because they might win, but because it'd be fun to try, wouldn't cost anything, and Northwestern probably isn't gonna win much more than that consistently anyway. Make that your brand.
Don't charge for football games. Maybe you get a raucous crowd of high school kids and other people who don't normally come to games. Let local food and beer vendors park food trucks in that grassy area behind the end zone. Implement a rule that no beer can cost more than $5, and it's buy one get one free every time Northwestern scores a TD.
Shit, you're still getting $100M a year. Dare the Big Ten to kick out a charter member of the conference who is putting out extremely competitive teams in every sport besides football.
I like your thinking. Or go out and get some washed up football coach looking for his last stop in his career. Maybe a decent guy but just didn't work out at another place. Hell, find a great recruiter like a Ron Zook but not have too high of expectations, just to keep the fans kind of excited.