Football: Pat Fitzgerald earns career win No. 100 in victory over Maryland

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Graphic by Emma Ruck

Peter Warren, Gameday Editor


Football


There’s a new memento to add to Pat Fitzgerald’s trophy cabinet.

With a commanding 43-3 victory over Maryland at Ryan Field on Saturday, Fitzgerald became the first football coach to reach 100 career wins at Northwestern.

“It’s an honor — it’s humbling,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s about our players. It’s about our staff. It’s about our players’ families. It’s about our staff’s families. So many people have contributed to this.”

The accomplishment comes in Fitzgerald’s 15th season at the helm after taking over before the 2006 season.

The NU alumnus’ tenure has been marked by rising standards and expectations for a program that had been an underdog for decades. He has led the Cats to at least six wins in a season 10 different times, including double-digit wins three different times. In the postseason, NU has made nine bowl game appearances after only six over the previous century and advanced to its Big Ten Championship Game in 2018.

Off the field, he oversaw the construction of the Walter Athletics Center and Ryan Fieldhouse, and has turned out some of the best recruiting classes in school history.

“I’m sorry it took so long to get to 100,” Fitzgerald said. “Hopefully the next 100 will be a lot faster.”

Fitzgerald had secured the top spot on the coaches’ wins list in a memorable 2013 Gator Bowl victory — which was also Northwestern’s first bowl victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl. The triumph was his 50th victory, jumping him past Pappy Waldorf, who had 49 wins over 12 seasons from 1935-1946.

Fitzgerald is now tied with Jim Tatum, a coach at Maryland, North Carolina and Oklahoma in the 1940s and 1950s, at spot No. 170 on the all-time wins list. Only 48 coaches ahead of him have accomplished the feat with coaching at one school their entire career.

Among current coaches, Fitzgerald is now 18th on the all-time wins list, one victory behind Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo. At the top is Nick Saban with 253 victories over 25 seasons.

While Fitzgerald is Northwestern’s all-time leader in victories, he is not the all-time leader in victories by someone who was once a head coach in Evanston. Waldorf has 157 victories across four schools, Charlie Bachman has 132 across four schools and Ara Parseghian has 131 victories at three schools.

On the all-time Big Ten wins list, Fitzgerald is comfortably at No. 16, six wins behind former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.

Fitzgerald holds many records for a head coach at NU, highlighted by bowl wins with four; bowl appearances with nine; 10-win seasons with three; nine-win seasons with two; games coached with 179 and years coached with 15.

Including Fitzgerald’s four seasons as a linebacker in the 1990s and five seasons as an assistant coach, he has been a part of 150 Wildcat W’s.

Senior linebacker Paddy Fisher said the accomplishment says a lot about Fitzgerald as a coach and a leader.

“To get to 100 wins isn’t easy,” Fisher said. “Certainly, he’s gonna have 100 more.”

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Twitter: @thepeterwarren

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