The award, the first of its kind, is designed to honor the spirit of Coach Paterno, whose long-time success on the field has been matched only by his impact away from it. Through a nomination process, each current head coach has been evaluated since the summer based on his school's performance on the field, in the classroom and within the community. For almost half a century, Coach Paterno has demanded all-around excellence from his student-athletes, as will an award that carries his name.
"In what's become a labor of love, our committee spent the past four months searching for those individuals succeeding by Coach Paterno's high standards," said Maxwell Football Club Director of College Awards Rich Cirminiello. "We're thrilled that any one of this year's finalists would be a worthy recipient of the honor."
Fitzgerald has led the Wildcats to a third straight bowl appearance and four straight years of bowl eligibility. Northwestern has won 24 games since the start of the 2008 season. Off the field, the Wildcats recently had a school-record 32 student-athletes named to the Academic All-Big Ten squad. Northwestern is also coming off a year where the football team compiled more than 1,100 hours of combined community outreach.
The formal announcement of the award will be made on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. The presentation of the award will be made at the Maxwell Football Club's Awards Dinner on Friday, March 4, 2011 at the Harrah's Entertainment Complex in Atlantic City, N.J.