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Tag:Jim Phillips
Posted on: May 10, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 1:20 pm

Northwestern signs Fitzgerald to 10-year contract

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As expected in a report from the AP yesterday, Northwestern announced today that head coach Pat Fitzgerald has just signed a new, 10-year contract that keeps him with the program through the 2020 season. The exact terms were not disclosed, and as a private university Northwestern is not obligated to disclose them, but Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Fitzgerald is signed for about $1.8 million per year.

"It is paramount for Northwestern football to have great leadership," said Director of Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips in a statement released today. "There is no better individual to lead Chicago's Big Ten Team than Pat. He is a tremendous teacher and truly values developing young men athletically, academically and socially. Our football program is having unprecedented success -- on the football field, in the classroom and in the community -- and that is due to Pat's outstanding leadership."

By inking Fitzgerald to this long-term deal -- one that looks like the first step of a "lifetime" contract -- Phillips and Northwestern reaffirmed their commitment to long-term stability in their revenue-generating sports. This is a two-prong strategy, both of which of are mandatory for this approach to work: patience and aggressively incentivizing success. The patience keeps coaches around even if their first few seasons aren't marked by meteoric rises in the polls, and the incentivizing (usually in the form of contract extensions) keeps them around when bigger-named schools start sniffing around at the first hint of success.

For example, in basketball, Bill Carmody is in his 11th year at the helm of the Wildcats' basketball program, and he's still never gotten them to the NCAA tournament. And yet, they've never gone at all, under Carmody or anybody else, so using tournament bids as a condition for employment would be wrong at a school like Northwestern. Phillips recognizes this fact, which explains why Carmody was given a contract extension this January, but most other schools without a history of success usually follow a pattern of firings or resignations every four years or so, and the cycle of futility usually continues unabated. You can't expect to build a successful program in four years. Sure, it can happen, but it usually doesn't -- there's far too much time spent on rebuilding. And now, as Carmody prepares for his twelfth season with Northwestern, that program is as strong as it's ever been. Think that'd be the case if there had been two or three firings between Carmody's hiring and now?

Similarly, Fitzgerald came to Northwestern as a 31-year-old with no previous head coaching experience, having been an assistant under Randy Walker until Walker's untimely death before the 2006 season. Since taking over for Walker, Fitzgerald is 34-29 in five seasons with no bowl victories. Ordinarily, a BCS coach who averages a 7-6 season and can't win a bowl game in three tries isn't going to get a 10-year deal made. But this isn't an ordinary BCS school, this is Northwestern. That may sound pejorative, but the fact remains that Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game in over 60 years, so just like with basketball, it would be wrong for Phillips to judge Fitzgerald on postseason successes at this point, and he knows that. Fitzgerald still needs time to keep improving the program and its track record of success, and giving Fitzgerald a 10-year contract sends the message to him, his players, and his recruits that Northwestern is granting him the freedom to do exactly that. That sounds intuitive and obvious, but how often does this type of commitment actually happen at the schools without strong athletic traditions? Think about that the next time you see one of those schools give up on a coach after 3-5 years.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 12:48 pm

Northwestern and Notre Dame renew rivalry

Posted by Tom Fornelli

That video is from 1995, and it shows what happened the last time Northwestern and Notre Dame met on a football field. During that game, Northwestern shocked the world by upsetting ninth-ranked Notre Dame in the season opener by a score of 17-15. It was the first game of what turned out to be a dream season for Northwestern, as the Wildcats finished the year 10-1 and went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1949.

At that time, Pat Fitzgerald was Northwestern's middle linebacker. Now that he's the team's head coach, Fitzgerald will get his chance to not only beat Notre Dame as a player, but as a coach as well. It was announced on Thursday morning that the Irish and Wildcats would be rekindling the series. Northwestern will return to South Bend in 2014, while Notre Dame will make the trip to Evanston in 2018.

“We’re excited about having Notre Dame make its first visit to Evanston since 1976,” said Northwestern AD Jim Phillips in a press release. “This is really an exciting time for Chicago’s Big Ten team as we continue to upgrade our nonconference schedule. With schools such as Boston College, California, Syracuse and Vanderbilt visiting Ryan Field in future years, combined with Nebraska to our division in the Big Ten, there’s no better time to be a Wildcat.”

Phillips also worked in Notre Dame's athletic department from 2000 to 2004. While the schools haven't played since that 1995 shocker, they have played a total of 47 games against one another.

Posted on: January 13, 2011 12:53 pm

Pat Fitzgerald to get 'lifetime' contract?

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Pat Fitzgerald has accomplished quite a bit as the head coach at Northwestern.  No, the Wildcats haven't won any Big Ten titles or made any BCS bowls under Fitzgerald, but given the school's football history, the fact that he consistently puts together winning seasons is nothing to take for granted.  Plenty of other programs have noticed what the 36-year old head coach has done, and his name pops up quite a bit when it comes to coaching searches. 

In fact, the word is that Fitzgerald was on Michigan's short-list to replace Rich Rodriguez, but he turned down an interview request.  He's turned down a lot of interviews in recent years, showing a loyalty to the school he attended that Northwestern has noticed.  Now it seems the school is looking to return the favor, as according to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern is working on a lifetime contract for Fitzgerald.
Toward the end of his Northwestern tenure, Ara Parseghian felt underappreciated — even though his final two teams spent time ranked among the nation's top 5.
Top NU officials are so determined not to let the same thing happen with coach Pat Fitzgerald, they are working on a lucrative and comprehensive contract extension that they hope will make him a Northwestern lifer.
It is expected to be formalized in the next few weeks.
Fitzgerald already has a deal through 2015, but athletic director Jim Phillips met with him in November and told him the school wanted to enhance it after the season — plus address any issues Fitzgerald had regarding NU's commitment to the program.
Fitzgerald, who played linebacker for Northwestern during its last trip to the Rose Bowl in 1996, took over the program after the unexpected death of Randy Walker in 2006.  Since then he's gone 34-29 in five seasons, leading the Wildcats to three bowl games.  
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