Today Teddy Greenstein comments on the speculation at the Michigan football blog, MGoBlog, that the athletic director for the University of Michigan might try to lure away Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. Greenstein is unambiguous about his thoughts — Fitzgerald is too committed to the Wildcats to leave — and lists several good reasons for his opinion, including Fitz’s ties to Northwestern and Chicago as well as Northwestern’s willingness to increase Fitz’s salary should they need to.
But, I don’t want to talk about where Greenstein is right. No, I want to touch on where I think he’s wrong. Greenstein mentions two positive reasons for Fitzgerald possibly leaving, beyond a raise. The first is a “better chance to win big” and the second an “easier time recruiting.”
As to the first, is that really true anymore? Yes, I know Michigan was a powerhouse in the conference and nationally, but after the apocalypse that was Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, I’m not sure that’s the reality of this team. Michigan and Northwestern had identical records this year, but that was AFTER Northwestern lost almost the entirety of their offense in Dan Persa. And, while both teams lost their bowl games, Michigan did so in a much more excruciating fashion than Northwestern. As such, I think the reality right now is that Pat Fitzgerald has about even chances of “winning big” in the next two years at Northwestern as he would at Michigan.
Then there’s the recruiting issue. Yes, Northwestern has historically had trouble in that department. High academic standards and decades of football futility don’t make it easy to lure high school seniors to your program. But, as Northwestern has a continual presence during bowl season that has begun to change. As for Michigan, their once solid brand has been diminished by the chaos of coaching changes and constant identity problems. While Northwestern has a consistent identity on offense, can that be said about the Wolverines? If you can’t tell prospective recruits whether they’re likely to be a major piece of the offensive/defensive puzzle, or whether their coach is likely to be around after a year or two, it becomes much harder to lure them in. In a nutshell, Northwestern’s recruiting efforts are on the upswing, while Michigan’s most certainly are not.
Given all this, it seems that there is every reason for Pat Fitzgerald to stay at Northwestern, and no reason for him to leave for Michigan.