Pat Fitzgerald wins bowl, then calls out ESPN analysts and bowl-haters

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday December 28, 2016


Last week, Pat Fitzgerald fired back at the idea that non-Playoff bowl games were meaningless. After winning his bowl game in upset fashion Wednesday, Fitzgerald shot back again.

Northwestern was an 3.5-point underdog heading into the New Era Pinstriple Bowl against Pitt, but won 31-24. ESPN’s Danny Kanell had picked Pitt to win, with the maximum amount of confidence points. During his opening statement after the win, Fitzgerald brought it up.

A big shout out to Danny Kanell and the ESPN crew that told us we'd just be happy to be here and that our motivation would be low, and they had I think 40 out of 40 confidence points,” Fitzgerald said. “That was a video I showed the guys when we showed up here in New York. I think it put things in perspective for where we're at. Our video crew put that together. That's the last thing we saw, video-wise, today.

“I greatly appreciate the external motivation. Cannot thank that group of three men enough. I'm proud to blow out their bowl season predictions, because the guys to my right, they're the ones that did it along with our staff.”

Kanell took it in stride, tweeting, “Congrats @coachfitz51 on the big win!!! Killed my bowl mania picks but that was fun to watch.”

On the idea of motivation, Fitzgerald said last week that anyone who called a bowl game “meaningless” had never played or coached the game. There are obviously different levels of motivation, and you don’t want players getting hurt — James Conner didn't return after taking a shot to the head, and Narduzzi added that he has more to play for in the NFL.

But this was Northwestern’s third bowl win ever, and second since 1948. The team celebrated like the game meant something to them. Asked what players would lose if they didn’t have a bowl game, Fitzgerald gave a long response.

“I think it would be a huge hole in the experience of college football players. I believe every game is meaningful. I think every game is significant. With the way things are right now, how many injuries, you've got to play the game and do everything you possibly can on a daily basis to embrace it, to love it, and know that it is short-lived. I mean, this is not a forever thing.

“(Receiver) Austin Carr gave a great chapel last night. A quote from Coach Carroll about how we live in a fantasy world. It's a temporary fantasy world. He was talking about it in prose, but it's the same thing in college. It's a temporary fantasy.

These guys love to play. They love to play. That's why you go to college. You go to college to play games. I believe every game is meaningful. I believe every bowl is meaningful. You look at the impact hopefully we had on New York City. I know we've been in other communities, the opportunity to go to children's hospitals, the impact of 9/11 (memorial), our guys going, had on their lives. It will be with them the rest of their lives. In the arena is only three and a half hours, but the bowl experience is second to none, especially this one has been absolutely spectacular, an experience that our guys I think would never trade.

I hope and pray that that never changes. I've experienced it as a player. I've experienced it as an assistant coach and now as a head coach. I think the bowl season is absolutely spectacular.

“I think those that have a negative opinion to it probably didn't play, didn't coach, and didn't experience it. I get it. As a fan, you're a consumer. Go watch something else. I think for every college football fan, they love watching games. I think for every player and coach, they love competing. I'm all for it.”

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.