Fitzgerald's loyalty to NU drawing recruits

Pat Fitzgerald has been offered intriguing opportunities from other universities, but chose to remain with his alma mater, Northwestern. On May 10, 2011, Fitzgerald signed a 10-year contract extension, locking him with the Wildcats. NU's program stability is a big draw to recruits.

Whenever the coaching carousel spins, Pat Fitzgerald's name draws mention. The 37-year-old has received offers of more money and the chance to run prestigious programs, but has turned it down, staying loyal to his alma mater, Northwestern.

Fitzgerald's commitment to Northwestern was put in writing one year ago when he signed a 10-year contract extension, locking him in Evanston through 2020.

The loyalty Fitzgerald showed to Northwestern resonates with recruits, many which have also chosen to give the Wildcats a commitment.

"It's a big thing for me to see he's committed to the program," said Dan Vitale, who signed with Northwestern's 2012 recruiting class. "He's a Wildcat himself. You can see that dedication, how bad he wants to make this program better. That's something I want to be a part of as well."

Fitzgerald signed NU's top recruiting class since the birth of, and the class of 2013 could top that. Northwestern received the verbal commitment of four-star quarterback Matthew Alviti, the Wildcats' third four-star prospect since Fitzgerald's extension. In addition, NU also drew former high-school All-American Kyle Prater.

Fitzgerald's contract extension expressed program stability, which can often be hard to find in college athletics.

"Knowing that a guy like Coach Fitz is going to be there for at least my four years is very important to me," said Adam DePietro, a four-star signee. "He's a family guy and has my back. Knowing that stability put some confidence in me for sure."

Fitzgerald, preparing for his seventh year as NU's head coach, is now the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten, standing only behind Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Since Fitzgerald's first game, there have been 22 Big Ten coaches have walked the sidelines.

"I know this is a guy that's going to be my mentor for the entire time I'm going through the program," DePietro said of Fitzgerald.

Dean Lowry, a three-star defensive end, gave NU his verbal commitment just a few weeks after Fitzgerald signed his contract extension. Lowry picked the Wildcats over offers from Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota, among others. The biggest selling point was Fitzgerald and his passion for Northwestern.

"When he was selling the school, he knows what he's talking about," Lowry said of Fitzgerald. "He's a two-time All-American [at Northwestern]. It made me trust him more."

As Lowry neared his decision, Fitzgerald's stability was fresh in mind.

"I'm going to have a coach there for my four years," said Lowry. "I'm going to develop a relationship with him. He's committed to me and my teammates."

Fitzgerald's presence and intended longevity with Northwestern remains a key selling point to recruits, offering comfort and stability at Ryan Field.

"He's a great guy and knowing he would be there was a huge, huge factor for my decison," said Vitale. "Knowing that Coach Fitz is going to be there is pretty cool, it doesn't get any better than that."

Chris Emma has covered college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports since 2009. He covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs.
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