Football coach receives contract through 2015 season

Sarah Kuta

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Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald has his feet planted firmly on Ryan Field grass and doesn’t plan on budging anytime soon.

NU Director of Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips announced Wednesday that Fitzgerald’s contract has been extended through the 2015 season.

Last season, Fitzgerald was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. He was also a Munger Coach of the Year semifinalist and a Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year finalist. Last December, Fitzgerald was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame for his contributions as a linebacker for NU from 1993-1996.

Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to nine victories last season. The team also earned a bid to the Alamo Bowl in December under his coaching staff. Fitgerald, who has been head coach since 2006, said he and Phillips had discussed the prospect of a long-term extension at the end of the 2008-2009 season and said he is thrilled an official agreement has been made.

“Number one, I’m very humbled and appreciative,” he said. “I’m excited to continue working with him and the great coaching staff we have here at Northwestern. With the support of President Bienen and (Chairman of the Board Patrick) Ryan, hopefully we can build upon the success we had last season.”

The contract renewal has been a top priority for Phillips, who said he is certain Fitzgerald is the right person to lead NU in the future.

“Besides our accomplishments on the football field, and just as importantly, our program is enjoying unprecedented academic success, having registered a team GPA above a 3.0 this past year – the first time that has happened in our school’s history,” Phillips said in a press release.

Fitzgerald said the contracts of his assistant coaches have been renewed as well and said he is confident that his coaching staff will be the key to a successful future at NU.

“It’s critically important,” he said. “This is an opportunity for me to keep the best staff in America. It’s great to have that continuity, it helps us with recruiting.”

Senior quarterback Mike Kafka said that he is also excited about Fitzgerald’s renewal, adding that he was glad Fitzgerald would be a staple of NU football for years to come.

“It’s awesome, I’m very happy for him,” he said. “It’s big praise for him and he deserves it. He’s worked his butt off to get here.”

Kafka said he recognized the team’s accomplishments last season and hopes that with this news, there will be many more successful years that follow.

“He’s definitely got the team going in the right direction,” he said.

Fitzgerald expressed his appreciation of the support he has received from the team as a whole.

“It’s because of them that this renewal happened,” he said. “I want to thank them for their trust and the sacrifice that they have made to become world-class athletes.”