Fitzgerald Inks New Contract Through 2030
Winningest Coach In NU History Secured For Next Decade
Credit Source: Northwestern University Athletics
EVANSTON, Illinois – Northwestern University and Dan & Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald have agreed to a contract that secures the program’s leadership through the 2030 season, Combe Family Vice President for Athletics & Recreation Jim Phillips announced Wednesday.
“We have one of the best coaches in college football and, more importantly, a leader uncommonly suited to this University,” said Phillips. “Over the course of his tenure, Coach Fitzgerald has built a culture of unwavering belief in excellence both on and off the field, and led our Wildcats to unprecedented sustained success. They boast incredible achievement in the classroom, in the community and in competition, and will for years to come.”
The sixth-longest tenured head coach in FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) football, Fitzgerald is the winningest coach in Northwestern history after reaching the 100-win milestone in the 2020 season opener at Ryan Field, and finishing the campaign with his 106th victory in the 2021 Citrus Bowl. He was recognized as the 2020 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year, as well as the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2018. Fitzgerald’s 106 career victories at Northwestern are the sixth-most by an active FBS coach with the same program. Since 2015, he has guided Northwestern to a .750 winning percentage or better four times in Big Ten play, which ranks second among league opponents.
“From the moment I stepped on campus as an undergraduate, I have believed this is the finest University in the country, with the potential to offer an unmatched student-athlete experience,” said Fitzgerald. “Stacy, Jack, Ryan, Brendan and I have always been grateful to call Northwestern our home, and be part of the Wildcats family. With the unparalleled leadership of President Morty Schapiro, athletic director Jim Phillips, senior vice president for business and finance Craig Johnson, vice president and general counsel Stephanie Graham, athletic department chief financial officer Kevin White, and Chairmen Lanny Martin, Bill Osborn and Pat Ryan, alongside so many others, we have built the foundation to compete for championships in tandem with the best academic and personal development opportunity anywhere in college football. We all have a lot to be proud of, but our best is yet to come.”
Northwestern has won two Big Ten West Division titles over the last three seasons and is one of only four programs in the Conference to make multiple appearances in the league’s title game. The Wildcats have won five of the program’s six all-time bowl championships since 2012, including four straight victories from the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl through the 2021 Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day, which is tied for the longest active bowl win streak in the Big Ten Conference.
At the same time, Northwestern has developed an increasing number of student-athletes for the National Football League. The Wildcats current professional roster includes standouts like Sherrick McManis, Anthony Walker Jr., Justin Jackson, Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Blake Hance, Joe Jones and Nate Hall. The upcoming 2021 NFL Draft is expected to feature several ‘Cats as high selections as Fitzgerald’s mission of being, “the best player development staff in college football,” continues to produce results.
Under Fitzgerald’s leadership, Northwestern has established itself as the premier academic program in college football. The Wildcats led all FBS institutions in NCAA Graduation Success Rate for the third consecutive year in 2020, and recently became the first Power-5 program in the history of the metric to post a perfect score. The team earned a record 69 Academic All-Big Ten honors last season, posted a 3.24 team grade-point-average in the fall quarter and had nine student-athletes tally a perfect 4.0 in the midst of a championship campaign.
Before starting his coaching career, Fitzgerald was one of the best players in Northwestern history. As a Wildcats linebacker in the mid-90’s he won both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award twice as the best defensive player in college football, and led the ‘Cats to a pair of Big Ten Championships and their last Rose Bowl appearance. He was awarded a Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1997 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Fourteen of Northwestern’s 16 all-time bowl appearances have come with Fitzgerald as a player or coach.