Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Agree to 10-Year Contract

By John Volk

Pat Fitzgerald is staying home.

Northwestern announced Wednesday that the program’s all-time winningest head coach will be back in Evanston at least until the 2030 season. The 10-year contract extension replaces the one Fitzgerald signed in 2017 that would have expired in 2026.

Fitzgerald has lifted the program to new heights since taking over as head coach since 2006, amassing a 106-81 record in that time. He secured his 100th career victory this season en route to the Wildcats’ second Big Ten West title in three years. Northwestern has played in 10 bowl games during Fitzgerald’s 15 seasons at the helm, winning five, including the last four straight.

Rumors circulated early this offseason that Fitzgerald could finally depart for an NFL head coaching position, but his decision to re-sign with Northwestern with six years left on his previous deal reaffirms his commitment to the team he has come to represent over the last quarter century. Fitzgerald described his role at Northwestern as his “dream job” in a 2018 interview with 670 The Score after he emerged as a candidate for the Green Bay Packers’ job.

“My commitment is to be here,” Fitzgerald said in 2018. “I’d love to have the opportunity to have my kids go to the same grade schools, the same high schools and be around these types of players. For my sons, our players are their role models. I wouldn’t want our (children) to look up to no other group of guys than our guys.”

This is the latest in a string of moves for the Wildcats since their Citrus Bowl win on New Year’s Day. Fitzgerald will enter 2021 with a new defensive coordinator in Jim O’Neil, formerly the Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive backs coach, and a new quarterback in Ryan Hilinski, a standout transfer from South Carolina. The 46-year-old head coach also provides stability for Northwestern as the school enters its first year in the post-Jim Phillips era as the athletic director is set to take over as the next ACC commissioner.

Fitzgerald began at Northwestern as an inside linebacker in 1993 and played a pivotal role in the 1995 team’s magical run to the 1996 Rose Bowl.