OT - Pat Fitzgerald Prospects Dimming?

Submitted by alum96 on September 2nd, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Very difficult to read a team after 1 week but Northwestern lost to what was a horrid Cal team at home last week.  I believe their only win last year was versus a FCS team. 

Pat Fitzgerald was a bit of a star about 3 years ago and some corners of the universe had him as a candidate for the U of M job.  I know he is a former player there so has close ties but looking forward at NW's schedule there is a real case to be made that after the next 2 weeks NW won't be favored in a  game again until the end of November.  I don't know how hot seats can get in Evanston but back to back seasons of dismay could be a major issue.

Here is what NW faces - I assume they win the next 2 although Northern Illinois is no cake walk; they beat Iowa last year.   After these 2 games I don't see NW being a favorite to win any game until @ Purdue

  • @PSU
  • Wisconsin
  • @Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • @Iowa
  • Michigan
  • @Notre Dame

Only break is a bye week between Nebraska and Iowa.  With the potential offensive firepower of Nebraska, PSU (via the air), Michigan and Notre Dame some of these games could get very ugly and the real possibility exists for a 7 game losing streak.   Even if they close the season with wins vs Purdue and Illinois (will the team be lost by then?) you could be talking 4-8.  And that assumes a win over Northern Illinois.



September 2nd, 2014 at 2:49 PM ^

Yes I don't know the culture there in terms of how high they seriously expect to maintain altitude.  They had some great years under Barnett and Fitzgerald had gone:

  • 9-4
  • 8-5
  • 7-6
  • 6-7
  • 10-3

In the 5 years prior to last, bowling each year.  Not that they expect 10 wins often but last year they had 1 conference win and they might struggle to get 2 this year.


September 2nd, 2014 at 2:49 PM ^

...I think he is a better fit, than he is a coach.  Not to say he is a bad coach, but he's a great fit.  NW seems a bit closer to Duke, than Stanford from a football standpoint, and I doubt any prolonged success is a reality at this time.


September 2nd, 2014 at 5:35 PM ^

Would you say the same thing about our coach?  I have often used the same words you just used to describe BH to people outside of the fanbase who were seriously asking me what I thought of him (without pre-disposition).   I don't mean the academic stuff I mean the point about him being the guy who says all the right things vs. getting any new rings.

Another parallel---"and I doubt any prolonged success is a reality at this time."

I think Hoke has 1-2 seasons left. 



September 2nd, 2014 at 2:50 PM ^

He would probably have to have 5 dismal seasons before Northwestern even thought about firing him. He's showed to be a solid coach and a perfect fit for them. They'll be fine.


September 2nd, 2014 at 3:00 PM ^

NW looks like they are going to revert to the mean for a couple of years.  When you recruit like they do, you need a few overachieving gems to carry you.  They lost a big one in Mark.  I doubt that NW will ever fire him, but a couple of bad years will probably ruin his chances at being mentioned for a big time opening again.  Not that he seems to care.  He could have left NW for a half dozen jobs in the last five years.

Voltron is Handsome

September 2nd, 2014 at 3:21 PM ^

I have never thought that Pat was a good coach and still think that now. The guy is a glorified cheerleader and makes himself look like a clown on the sideline during games, as evidenced by his antics in the Big House two years ago.


September 2nd, 2014 at 3:11 PM ^

Fitzgerald is as dedicated to Northwestern as any coach in America is to his school.  If NU ever dumped him, it would be a decision they would regret for a long, long time.  He's been competitive in just about all of his games, and he's done it above board.  Pat Fitzgerald IS Northwestern.

Avon Barksdale

September 2nd, 2014 at 3:13 PM ^

I'm really assuming he is completely safe for at least another two years. I cannot see Northwestern getting anyone better than him. He played there, he's made them competitive, and he knows the standard of academics first. The only guy I could have seen them going after that could fill Fitzgerald's post and have the same credentials would have been Derek Mason at Stanford, but he's at Vanderbilt now, obviously.


September 2nd, 2014 at 3:23 PM ^

And I think he is a great fit at Northwestern. He almost always overachieves with his roster and puts together a competitive team every year. He's also a well-liked and well-respected coach at an excellent academic university. I don't see him leaving Northwestern until he's ready; Northwestern would be foolish to get rid of him.


September 2nd, 2014 at 4:15 PM ^

While I don't think he will ever truly be on the hot seat at Northwestern, the OP may be correct in that Fitzgerald's prospects for a new job likely are dwindling. In my opinion, he will stay at Northwestern for the rest of his career (barring a serious NCAA infraction or scandal), but I just don't see a bigger name team calling him up as time goes on. He's won and will continue to win at Northwestern, but I think he's reached his ceiling and, fortunately, his perfect match with Northwestern.


September 2nd, 2014 at 3:28 PM ^

Cal in year 2 of Sonny Dykes is likely much better than 2013 Cal, so we probably can't take too much from this particular game beyond they (NU) didn't seem prepared to play, particularly in first half. That's on Fitz and his staff for sure.  


September 2nd, 2014 at 4:10 PM ^

As someone living in Chicago, there's nothing at all about Fitz's job being remotely in jeopardy, even with the awful loss to Cal.

In addition to being Mr. Northwestern due to his playing career and the way he took over after Randy Walker died, the overall perception is that he's done a good job. They win more than they lose and his players graduate-- which is pretty much a recipe for staying forever at NU. He also put togeher a nice recruiting class last year and has another nice one going this year, so the thought is that the future is bright. 

The other thing working in his favor is that Northwestern doesn't fire coaches in a hurry-- this is the same school that kept Bill Carmody as coach for 13 years without an NCAA berth and a 32% conference winning percentage.

The only thing that could do him in is an academic/ off-field scandal or if the program totally tanks and NU wants to get a new coach as they rollout out their new football complex over the next couple of years.  


September 2nd, 2014 at 4:24 PM ^

I think the compliments showered on Fitgerald regularly paint a better picture than the results Fitzgerald has acquired.  I'm not at all saying he's a terrible coach, but how many ways can you find to blow games in self dong punching fashion?  I know a good portion of this is luck, but a lot of it is also coaching and mentality.


September 2nd, 2014 at 4:43 PM ^

Fitzgerald is doing a great job ... for Northwestern.  As long as people keep things in context, he is doing a great job with their program.  The problems occur when - as they have recently - people try to start comparing Northwestern against other teams and set their standards based on what other teams are doing.

Northwestern has been a 6 or 7 win team for roughly the last 5 or 6 seasons.  For the Wildcats, that is tremendous progress.  We're taking a program that has made 11 bowls in the school's history.  Before the 2000s, Northwestern pretty much didn't make bowl games.  That is a huge break.

Having said that, the people who truly believe Northwestern would challenge for conference titles were totally out there.  Northwestern was a fraud in their 2012 season when they won 10 games.  When people finally realize this - as they are doing now - things will be a lot more fairly assessed.


September 2nd, 2014 at 4:46 PM ^

is cold, unless he punches an opposing player in the throat during a game, goes on a drunken tirade at a restaurant, or wipes out on his motorcycle joy ride with his grad student mistress.

Ice cold.

Not exactly his fault that his players are going down like they're campers in a Friday the 13th movie.

Cal, by the way, is not the tire fire they were a year ago.  They'll be bowl-eligiblish.


September 2nd, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

When Brandon was looking at coaches post-Rich, Fitzgerald's camp made sure that it was leaked that DB reached out to see if he had any interest at all (in the Trib).  The result was a rush to give him a contract extension and a push to upgrade NW facilities.  No idea how serious DB was in considering him, but the aftermath certainly shows how much NW wants to keep Fitz around.


September 2nd, 2014 at 5:09 PM ^

But their schedule looks like a 4-8er at best.  Possibly 3-9.  

Northwestern isn't heavily favored this weekend, but I don't keep up with Northern Illinois enough to know how that game should go.  NIU has been putting up some pretty impressive seasons, though.  

(after writing all that up and looking up the schedule and comparing the stats, I realize I basically repeated your last paragraph).  

I'll go with 5-7, possibly 6-6.  They might start off with a win at PSU.  

I'm also assuming you meant Fitz's football prospects this year as opposed to the prospect of him getting hired away.  

I believe he'll be at NU for as long as they'll let them (which should be a long time).


September 2nd, 2014 at 5:35 PM ^

Yeah. Not only the coaching transition. Also last year Cal was dealing with a pretty remarkable string of injuries. And breaking in a true freshman quarterback.

This year, they've got a really tough second half. For Cal partisans "bowl eligible" seems to be a best case scenario this year. They're definitely better than last year, though, and probably better than their record at the end of this season will suggest.

However, having watched most of the game, I would say that Cal looked pretty decent, but also that Northwestern looked pretty lousy at least for the first half.


September 2nd, 2014 at 7:44 PM ^

Cal is the other team I follow, having spent 4 years there before my 9 at M. They looked far better on Saturday than they did at any point last year. The offense was only marginally improved, but the defense looked organized and fundamentally sound after looking totally lost and confused for most of 2013. They still seem to be pretty meh on both sides of the ball, but they look like they should win 5-6 games this year which isn't bad considering their schedule.

SF Wolverine

September 2nd, 2014 at 5:52 PM ^

1.  Guy has lost a career's worth of heartbreakers in the last three years.  So, regression to mean.

2.  No offense, but this is likely as good a coach as they will see.

3.  He recruits very well, vis-a-vis many of his predecessors.

4.  The expectations of the fan base will alllow ups and downs, and he has a fair amount of capital right now.


September 2nd, 2014 at 6:11 PM ^

It would take a lot for NW to fire Fitz. He's led them to three consecutive winning seasons, a 10-win season, and their first bowl victory in over six decades. He also played there, he's from there, and he would be very unlikely to leave.

His seat is not hot in any sense, and NW would be insane to fire him.


September 2nd, 2014 at 7:21 PM ^

I think Fitzgerald will be fine at NW.  Besides, they always have the best cheer in college football to fall back on when they are losing:

Tha'ts all right, that's OK

You'll all work for us someday.


September 2nd, 2014 at 8:41 PM ^

Hot seat at NW: no

But will he ever again be considered for a big time job probably not we all assume that is what he wants but mayb he wants to coach NW for life


September 2nd, 2014 at 8:42 PM ^


Michigan 69

Northwestern 0

The could be, and have been, much, much worse than they are now. If I'm wrong, I'll eat a lemon*

(*or maybe not in case I don't really want to)

Perkis-Size Me

September 2nd, 2014 at 11:33 PM ^

If Fitz goes 0-12 this year, then yeah, I could envision a scenario where he gets let go. I mean something like that should never happen at a program with that kind of coach and the talent he's got.

Otherwise, I can't imagine Fitz's job being in any kind of real jeopardy, unless he punches one of his players or screams at an orphanage full of babies. If he was at just about any other school, yeah, another bad season would probably put him on the hot seat, but I think at the end of the day, expectations at Northwestern football are drastically different than expectations for a place like Michigan or OSU. The student body doesn't exactly care that much week in and week out about football. After losing to OSU last year, I'm guessing most of the kids went back inside to study and didn't come out until finals, not caring what else the team did.

Pat Fitzgerald is Northwestern Football. They probably don't want to fire him because they know they probably can't get a better coach, long-term. Anyone else would view the school as a stepping stone to a bigger, better program. Fitz is a very rare find in college football. I've met him personally, and while I can't speak for the guy, I got the strong impression that if he wanted to be anywhere else, he would've left by now.



September 3rd, 2014 at 10:54 AM ^

show major improvement with Cal this year and this loss will not look so bad for NU at the end of the season. Dykes has had a way of creating steady improvement throughout his coaching tenures.