Northwestern's Coach Pat Fitzgerald: The Best Coach in College Football?

Bleacher ReportContributor ISeptember 20, 2010

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1: Coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats directs play against the Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2010 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The death of Randy Walker was a tragic to the College Football community and any fan of the sport.  

It left Northwestern looking for a familiar face and a leader to take over for Randy Walker.

On July 7, 2006, Northwestern decided his predecessor would be Pat Fitzgerald.

He had been the team's linebackers coach since 2001, but he was only 31 and had never had a previous head coaching job.  

The previous season Northwestern went 7-5 and had lost most of their key players and their coaching staff.

His first season on the throne was a difficult one.  He started his head coaching career with a game at Miami University (Walker's alma mater), which was obviously a very emotional game.  Northwestern would go on and beat Miami Ohio. 

The Pat Fitzgerald-headed Northwestern Wildcats have gone 30-23.  Considering Northwestern is at the bottom of the Big Ten's recruiting board year after year, the record is very impressive.

He has to work around a very difficult academic requirements.  Every team in the Big Ten has to work around some kind of academic qualifications, but Northwestern's far surpass any other Big Ten member. 

In fact, Northwestern hasn't had a recruiting classed ranked higher than ninth in the Big 10, and have finished 11th once in his four-year campaign, yet Northwestern continues to give teams with top recruiting classes fits year after year.  

Even with the lack of talent, he has managed to send nine players to the NFL over his four year stint. Considering what a tough time they have recruiting, sending on average 2 players to the NFL a year is a task that can't be overlooked. 

Since taking over in 2006, Northwestern has competed with many good teams.  

Northwestern is 1-0 against Wisconsin, 3-1 against Iowa, and always beats the lower tier teams in conference.  He is also 3-1 against their arch rival Illinois. Something no one in Evanston is overlooking.

Fitzgerald has only one losing season as a head coach, and that was his first season. His last two seasons have been very successful. Considering the resources Northwestern has to work around, a combined 17-9 record is great.

Putting together the lack of recruiting and maintaining success over his short tenure, Pat Fitzgerald has done absolutely everything right, and the argument can be made that given the same resources of a Penn State, he would be able to win multiple national championships.