Phillips, NU Deliver With New Deal

When Pat Fitzgerald took over as head coach, Northwestern was giving a 31-year-old a big chance. Now, Fitzgerald is one of college football's hottest commodities. With other programs extending big offers, it was a necessity for Jim Phillips and Northwestern to lock up their head coach. They delivered.

Now five seasons into his career as a head coach, Pat Fitzgerald's impressive body of work was attracting a lot of attention. Michigan was one of a number of schools who showed interest in Fitzgerald's services during the offseason.

It's not Fitzgerald's 34-29 overall record that has other programs interested, it's a combination of things he offers which many coaches don't have. He brings unmatched passion and energy to the job, which players and recruits respond to. He's the ultimate player's coach, which is a big reason for his success.

Other programs are well aware of what he brings to the table. Under Fitzgerald's leadership, Northwestern has played in a bowl game for three-straight years—something which has never been accomplished in the program's history. The Wildcats are poised for another big year as they look ahead toward the 2011 season.

While this change in culture didn't happen overnight, Pat Fitzgerald has helped built Northwestern into a BCS Bowl contender for this season, and years to come.

Wildcats have become married to the idea that Pat Fitzgerald will be a lifer at Northwestern, and that's a very strong possibility. However, money talks loudly.

When Michigan and other programs came calling for Fitzgerald's services, don't believe that he immediately hung up the phone. In Ann Arbor, Fitzgerald would have somewhere in the range of $3 million, better facilities, and a winning tradition already built. Just because Fitzgerald is a purple-bleeding Northwestern alum, doesn't mean other offers weren't interesting.

NU athletic director Jim Phillips made it clear to Fitzgerald—he wanted him around for a long time, and was willing to offer incentive to stay.

To Phillips' credit, he got a deal done, and a deal that will better Northwestern for much longer than the 10 years listed on the contract.

If Fitzgerald indeed does plan to stay in Evanston for his entire coaching career, Phillips had to make sure NU wasn't taking advantage of his loyalty to the school. All Fitzgerald requested were the resources necessary to get Northwestern to the next level—something which Phillips and NU delivered on.

With this deal, Phillips and the entire Northwestern University made it clear that they are fully committed to making Wildcat football a championship program. This is a multi-year and multi-step process, and it's only just beginning.

It started with ensuring the face of the program, Pat Fitzgerald, isn't going anywhere. With every "Go ‘Cats!", Fitzgerald is strengthening the brand of Northwestern football. Under his leadership, NU is looked at as an up-and-comer in the college football landscape.

The next major phase is to improve Northwestern's football facilities—either a mass renovation to Ryan Field and the Nicolet Family Football Center, or the constructing of a brand new stadium and football facility, which would likely be located on the NU campus.

For many recruits, facilities sell a program. It's a symbol of what the program is like and how committed the program is. It is also simply a nice building where a recruit will spend their next four or five years playing football. Either way you look at it, it's a major resource for a football program.

For NU student-athletes, it's an inconvenient mile trip from Northwestern's campus to the Ryan Field/Welsh-Ryan Arena complex.

New facilities better the fan experience and satisfy the athletes. It's a major win all-around.

The contract extension may only list 10 years in ink, but this is an investment that goes much longer than 10 years. Northwestern is committed to becoming a power program for years to come, and they've secured Pat Fitzgerald as the guy to lead it.

Give Jim Phillips, Morton Schapiro, and the NU Board of Trustees their due credit—they made a major move that had to be done.


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