Nadkarni: Northwestern, Fitzgerald failing to live up to their own expectations


Rohan Nadkarni, Gameday Editor

Someone asked football coach Pat Fitzgerald how his team refocuses for Iowa after the Wildcats’ third straight loss Saturday to Minnesota.

“(We) don’t listen to you guys,” Fitzgerald lobbied at the media, again showing his disdain for the criticism and hype that comes with every NU game.

Personally, I think it might be time we stop listening to Fitzgerald.

Before the season, it was Fitzgerald, University President Morton Schapiro and the rest of the athletic department who put the hype and expectations on the Cats this season. And it’s now NU’s fault that it has failed to live up to its own proclamations.

This program craves attention, and it’s unfair to shy away from the spotlight once the losses mount. Let’s not forget that NU is a media darling, and Fitzgerald operates under less pressure than just about any coach in the country.

Fitzgerald is the one who told the Chicago Tribune in August, “Our internal expectations far outweigh external expectations, and they’ve been that way for a long time.”

So who created this hype? Who is the reason for the massive disappointment this season is shaping up to be?

Fitzgerald continued about the hype from “the outside” at his news conference Saturday.

“I’d love to say that I was able to shut all that out. That’s impossible,” he said.

Even wide receiver Christian Jones got in on the action.

“You’ve been motivated from the start when you get all this hype, but you try not to listen to the hype,” Jones said.

Well, what is it then? How high are the internal expectations when the team consistently blames the media for putting too much hype on the Cats?

It seems convenient that the team ignores when Schapiro and Fitzgerald gleamed about making a return trip to California for the Rose Bowl this season.

Listen, I don’t hate Pat Fitzgerald. In fact, I have an unhealthy obsession with him. But I’m tired of NU trying to have its cake and eat it too. If this team wants the positives that come with “College GameDay” and prime-time games on ABC, then it’s time to step and accept the scrutiny that comes when you flop in the aftermath. It’s what happens at Ohio State and Michigan.

And I still believe in our guys. As I watched Florida State whip Clemson on Saturday, knowing my friends from back home enjoyed seeing their program dominate a top-five opponent, I still thought, “That should be us.”

I still have faith. I still love my team. It’s impossible to explain to outsiders, but I’ll take the Cats over anyone, any day, because I know what we stand for and how we conduct our business. But it’s time for the insiders to live up to their end of the bargain.

Collin Ellis, one of the few to play well Saturday, said after the game: “We know we’re a good football team. A really, really good football team.”

I’m sorry, but words aren’t enough this time, not after what’s happened on the field. Fitzgerald had another quote for the Tribune in August, this one a bit more prescient.

“If we don’t keep winning, it’s going to be like (last year) was a great year for Northwestern football, but it’s still Northwestern,” Fitzgerald said.

Well, I guess we’re still Northwestern.

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Twitter: @Rohan_NU