Pat Fitzgerald explains how he's kept the same staff for 7 straight years

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday May 17, 2017


Last week, CoachingSearch noted that only four FBS schools return their entire staff for the third straight year, but Northwestern stood out from the rest.

This fall will be the seventh straight season Pat Fitzgerald will have the same nine assistants — four years longer than anyone else. He joined WJOX recently and was asked how he’s kept them together.

“Well, loyalty. The guys have been terrific,” he said. “They’ve had opportunities, maybe positions if they investigated, didn’t fit them and their families. The most important aspect for our program is our young men. We’ve got the best and brightest young men in college football. We just got the highest APR in the country, and I’m very proud of who our young men are. At the end of the day, to have the young man that’s motivated in all aspects of his life, boy is he fun to coach."

Fitzgerald took some criticism from fans for not making changes after two straight 5-7 season from 2013-14. But he kept everyone together, and they won 10 games in 2015 and won a bowl game last year. He felt staff changes weren't the issue, and they've been loyal in return.

“I’m very thankful to our coaches, their wives and families for the loyalty, and the university support,” Fitzgerald said. “They’ve stepped up. When we’ve had the opportunity to compete to keep a coach, the university has stepped up. Our athletic director and president are rock stars. They do a great job for us, and we’re very thankful for it.”

In the interview, Fitzgerald also opened up on the new rule banning two-a-days. It’s not something Northwestern did much of anyway, so instead of a much earlier start to fall camp, it’ll just be moved up one day. Northwestern runs on the quarter system, so school doesn't even start until a few games into the season.

“We’ve had three two-a-days in the last six years,” he said. “Just the way everything unfolds. And I give our guys breaks and time off already. Instead of it being a major change for us, I’ve just got to tweak some things a little bit. … I’m just going to move our report day up one day. Maybe I gave our guys a day off in the past, will probably practice now. We’ll get into our normal game routine, meaning Sunday off. So we’ll report on Saturday and they’ll have the next day off. We’ll go through that routine between training camp and the Big Ten championship. A slight tweak for us.

“I understand, from a health and safety standpoint, that people think we’re still in the dinosaur age. The way we coach our guys, this whole report and the way it came out was out of left field. I sit on the board of trustees for the AFCA. We don’t have enough time to get things fixed for this training camp. We’ll all adjust and hopefully next offseason get it to a place. My guys are like, ‘What are we going to do on Sunday when we’re off? The guys want to be coached and get better. We’ll have some fun and do some things.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.