Pat Fitzgerald Wins 2020 Dodd Trophy
Northwestern head coach recognized for Big Ten West Division title, as well as impact on academics and community
Credit Source: Northwestern University Athletics
ATLANTA (Dec. 31, 2020) – Officials from the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl today announced that Northwestern Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been named the winner of the 2020 Dodd Trophy.
Presented annually by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, The Dodd Trophy, college football’s most coveted coaching award, honors the head football coach whose program embodies the award’s three pillars of scholarship, leadership and integrity, while also having success on the playing field throughout the season. Winners of the award from the previous two years and first-year coaches at an institution are not eligible to win the award.
Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to the program’s second Big Ten West Division title and berth in the Big Ten Championship game earlier this year. With 15 seasons at the helm at Northwestern, Pat Fitzgerald is now the second-longest tenured head coach in the Big Ten. Earlier this season, he surpassed 100 career victories as head coach of the Wildcats. His 105 career victories are the 23rd most by an active FBS coach. All 105 wins have come as the head coach of the Wildcats, which places him sixth on the list of active FBS coaches who have collected their wins at the same school. Fitzgerald is one of eight active coaches to be the all-time winningest coach at their current school and ranks fourth on that list. As a program, Northwestern has appeared in 16 bowl games, 10 of which have come with Fitzgerald as the head coach. The Chicago, Illinois, native has coached his alma mater to four of the five bowl victories in program history, including a current run of three consecutive bowl championships.
“Coach Dodd is a legendary figure of our game and it is an absolute honor to win the award that bears his name,” said Fitzgerald. “This is a program award and I am privileged to be the head coach of the best student-athletes in the country alongside a staff that is second-to-none. Coach Dodd’s pillars of scholarship, leadership and integrity are the foundation of a Wildcat. Our young men strive to excel in every facet of their college experience, whether that be earning the highest graduation rate success rate in the country, giving back in the community or consistently competing for championships. On behalf of our entire Northwestern Football Family, I am proud to accept this prestigious award.”
Northwestern has also excelled academically under Fitzgerald. Off the football field, Fitzgerald’s players have achieved at the highest levels in the classroom, with a program-record 69 players earning Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2020. For the fourth consecutive year, Northwestern football earned the highest Graduation Success Rate, GSR, among all FBS programs, posting a 97 percent mark. The Wildcats have ranked first or second in the country for GSR among FBS football programs for 10 straight years. In 2019, Northwestern football also became the first Power Five team ever to post a perfect GSR score. Northwestern has earned an FBS-best 10 AFCA Academic Achievement Awards since 1998. Additionally, Fitzgerald’s program has ranked in the top three among all FBS programs in the multi-year Academic Progress Rating (APR) for 10 consecutive years and has posted a score of 995-or-better in the measure of player retention and eligibility four straight years. The Wildcats were the lone Big Ten football program to earn an APR Public Recognition Award from the NCAA in 2020, which is given to programs that rank in the top 10 percent of their sport.
“Coach Fitzgerald truly embodies everything that The Dodd Trophy stands for,” said Jim Terry, chairman of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation. “He’s built the Northwestern program into a perennial contender in the Big Ten, while also achieving new milestones in the classroom and making a positive impact in his community. Coach Dodd would be honored to have someone win the award who carries on his legacy in the modern era of the sport.”
In the community, Fitzgerald, his family and his players participate in several charitable events including: Northwestern Dance Marathon, Special Olympics, Misericordia and Uplifting Athletes. The team also makes weekly school and children’s hospital visits, along with contributing to dozens of other organizations. In recognition of his work off of the football field, Fitzgerald was named honorary coach of the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for demonstrating a unique dedication to community service and desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
“Coach Fitzgerald has taken the Northwestern football program to new heights on the gridiron and in the classroom,” said Gary Stokan, CEO and president of Peach Bowl, Inc. “The Dodd Trophy is the most coveted coach of the year award because it honors those coaches who leave a lasting legacy both on and off the football field. He epitomizes everything coaches in our sport should aspire to be and is the perfect selection to be this year’s recipient.”
Five of the nation’s top head coaches (Tom Allen, Matt Campbell, Luke Fickell, Pat Fitzgerald and Brian Kelly) were named finalists for this year’s award by a panel consisting of all previous winners, national media, a member of the Dodd family and a College Football Hall of Fame member. Coach Fitzgerald was selected as this year’s recipient by the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation.