Pat Fitzgerald may never win a national coach of the year award, but on-and-off the field there is not another coach in the country that does more with any other college football program. Since he was hired by Northwestern after the tragic death of their head coach Randy Walker in 2006, Fitzgerald has done so much for his school and team. He consistently adheres to Northwestern University’s strict academic standards in recruiting players, provides a formidable squad every year in arguably the 3rd hardest conference in America, and most importantly he is loyal to his school. He easily could have any job he wanted at any other school in America, outside the powerhouses such as Alabama, USC, LSU, etc. But, he wants to stay at his alma mater in Evanston which is almost unheard of in this day and age. In May he signed a ten-year extension for $1.8 million dollars a year, a well-deserved pay increase for a guy who is only thirty-seven years old. Since his hiring in 2006, he has led the Wildcats to a respectable 40-36 record, three bowl appearances, and probably his best quality is his ability to graduate his athletes. For as long as anyone can probably remember Northwestern consistently has been inside the top five in graduation rates in the country; five times since 2002 they have sat atop this list. In the newest NCAA academic progress report, Northwestern captured the AFCA’s (Academic Achievement Award), given to the top football program in terms of highest graduation rates, the most recent Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, Northwestern recorded a perfect 1,000 APR index.
I know Northwestern lost its game against Texas A&M, but the game was much closer than the 33-22 score would indicate. Going into the fourth quarter, Northwestern was losing to the Aggies 30-7. The Cats sparked a ferocious comeback, cutting the lead to eight with 5:20 seconds left in the game. Ultimately, the Aggies won by eleven, but still, there is not a coach in college football that does more with mediocre (at best) football talent. No team reflects the attitude of their coach like Northwestern, they refuse to back down, much like Fitzgerald. He is a coach that any parent would love to send their child to during their son’s young adult life. Coach Fitzgerald should be applauded for his efforts; seemingly, he is a flawless coach for not only Northwestern, but any school.