Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald on Sports, School and Leadership


The Northwestern Wildcats football team has had a tough season so far, going one and four. But the program’s overall record under its current head coach is pretty stellar, including nine bowl game appearances and the school’s first-ever trip to the Big Ten championship. It’s also succeeded academically, with the best player graduation rate in the nation.

“We take great pride in it. We don’t take it for granted, though,” said Pat Fitzgerald, head coach of the Wildcats football team since 2006. “We recruit great young people from great families, and we have outstanding academic support for our guys.”

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Fitzgerald, a 1997 Northwestern graduate, said his education helped prepare him for his current role. “It was CEO training. It was preparing you for interaction with human beings: how to develop people, how to deal with chaos, adversity and how to really set the standard and the values for a culture. I really felt like I was prepared. I would prefer, obviously, to still be linebacker coach, but that wasn’t the cards that were dealt,” said Fitzgerald, who took over after the sudden death of then-coach Randy Walker, who died from a heart attack.

“I had to embody everything coach taught us. I had to trust myself. People a lot smarter than myself put me into that leadership role, (and) I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” Fitzgerald said.

As for whether he’d consider other opportunities, Fitzgerald – who’s reportedly been considered for NFL coaching jobs many times – said he’s not looking for a change anytime soon.

“I’ve got three boys at home. One’s a freshman at Loyola Academy now, a seventh grader, and a fifth grader. I’d love to have the opportunity to be their coach. I don’t get the chance to see a lot of their games in the fall,” Fitzgerald said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to win games, graduate our guys, and do the right things, and they keep me around at Northwestern for a long time.”


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