Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, now in his 21st season as the Hawkeyes coach, is currently the Big Ten football coach who has held his job the longest.
But Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald looks like he could go far beyond whatever the 64-year-old Ferentz’s final total is when he decides to retire.
No coach can say they have their job for life, but Fitzgerald comes about as close as is possible to having his job for as long as he wants it.
The former Northwestern linebacker, who will be 45 years old in December, has been the Wildcats’ head coach since 2006.
He and his wife grew up in suburban Chicago. He’s happy at Northwestern and well paid (reportedly $5.1 million a year) and Northwestern is happy with him.
A 97-74 career record might put you on thin ice at Ohio State or Michigan or Notre Dame. At Northwestern it means you’re on your way to eventually having a building or something named for you.
Fitzgerald has outlasted six Chicago Cubs managers, including the one who was the manager when the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. The Chicago Bulls have had seven coaches since he became Northwestern’s head coach at age 31 when Randy Walker died in late June of 2006.
Only one Big Ten football coach has coached at the same school for 30 years or more and just six others have stayed 20 years or more.
Amos Alonzo Stagg, who spent 37 years at the University of Chicago when it was in the Big Ten, is the record holder.
Robert Zuppke was Illinois’ coach for 29 years from 1913-1941. Woody Hayes was at Ohio State for 28 seasons from 1951-1978.
The rest of the 20 years or more list consists of Bo Schembechler at Michigan, Hayden Fry and Ferentz at Iowa, and Henry Williams, who coached at Minnesota from 1900 to 1921.
The biggest wins for Northwestern in Fitzgerald’s 14 seasons are probably an upset of a 9-0 Iowa team in 2009 and last year’s win over Iowa, which clinched the Wildcats’ first trip to a Big Ten championship game.
The chances of Friday night’s match-up between Ohio State and Northwestern at Ryan Field joining the list of memorable Northwestern wins are not good.
No. 4 Ohio (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) is a four-touchdown favorite over the Wildcats (1-4, 0-3 Big Ten).
There does not appear any way that gap will be any smaller when the two teams get on the field. Maybe Fitzgerald could show his team video highlights of Bowling Green’s miraculous win over Toledo, but even that wouldn’t make a difference.
Northwestern got to last year’s Big Ten championship game, which Ohio State won 45-24, with a team that was stronger on offense than on defense.
Defense is also the strength of this year’s team. Northwestern is ranked No. 26 nationally in total defense and has two All-Big Ten caliber players in linebacker Paddy Fisher and defensive lineman Joe Gaziano.
But atrocious might be too kind a description for its offense, which ranks No. 125 nationally.
The Wildcats have scored only six offensive touchdowns in five games. OSU quarterback Justin Fields has accounted for 26 touchdowns (8 rushing, 18 passing) by himself.
Ohio State will roll and then turn its attention to Wisconsin next Saturday.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Northwestern 10.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.