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B1G 2012 // Northwestern's Smartest Guys in the Room

"Ugh... This bowl game is not going to end well."  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
"Ugh... This bowl game is not going to end well." (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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I'm as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce

I wanted to kick this piece off with a hat tip to one of the greatest artists, humanitarians, and MC's of all time, Adam "MCA" Yauch. I grew up in a world where the Beastie Boys had already asserted their will on the world, but each album that was released and that I discovered meant more to me than the last. When I heard the news last week that MCA had died from cancer, I was crushed. This guy was a hero for standing up against violence, racism, homophobia, and misogyny and he proved that maturing didn't mean you had to have less fun. So, with a tip of the hat to the late great MCA and the body of work that is the Beastie Boys, I bring you Northwestern's Smartest Guys in the Room.


The Head Coach -- Pat Fitzgerald

Not-Very-Pertinent MCA Reference:

If you try to knock me you'll get mocked
I'll stir fry you in my wok
Your knees'll start shaking and your fingers pop
Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock

The Skinny

With a seventh season upcoming, Pat Fitzgerald is now one of the longest tenured coaches in the Big Ten. Think about that for a moment. Five years ago, the B1G was being led by the likes of the Vest, Paterno, Carr, and Ferentz. If anyone had, "Fitzgerald will last longer than 75% of those men," in the B1G coaching tenure pool, you look like a freaking genius. However, my gut tells me that most of us didn't even notice that Fitz has been there this long. As a relative outsider to the coaching hierarchies in the B1G, I am still trying to wrap my mind around a world where Northwestern has the more experienced coaching staff than Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State.

All of that aside, Fitzgerald deserves a few kudos. For a guy who was thrown into the Head Coaching role after tragedy struck the Northwestern program, he has revived interest as a whole and if you were to ask the Northwestern faithful [insert obligatory joke about all 5 of them], there is definitely a sense that he can be the one to break through and win a bowl game. With a winning percentage just north of .500 and four consecutive losses trips to a bowl game, Northwestern has made a small name for themselves. Above all else, Northwestern has proven year after year that they are not a team to be overlooked. With the pelts of Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and many others who were in a position to succeed, Fitz has created an environment where his team can and will win anywhere you ask them to.

Of course, none of this would be fair without at least a small look at the downside. Fitzgerald is definitely a strong offensive mind, and despite his defensive foundation gained through his playing days, Northwestern's defense has been something to be desired. I'm not sure if it's true, but I heard once that Fitz was getting testy with a reporter and basically said that his defense had held teams to less than 50, so everything was on the up and up. Obviously he wasn't serious, but it does beg the question on why it hasn't been fixed. And while we joke about Northwestern's inability to, you know, win a bowl game, sooner or later that has to be discussed. With smart kid schools like Stanford doing it big time, you got to wonder what is holding Northwestern back from making that next jump. While I do not believe for a moment that Fitz is on the clock, one can only hold on to the status quo for so long, right?


I'm humbled and appreciative of the commitment shown by Northwestern. With this support from our administration, our coaches and players expect to compete for championships.

This is directly from the Pat Fitzgerald profile interview. It is extreme coachspeak and probably was written for him by some grad assistant or media relations director. Nonetheless, I really liked the sentiment because it seems to embody what Fitz is trying to do at Northwestern. He expects them to compete with everyone, and while the results have not gotten to the place he wants (yet), he's going to set the bar as high as possible. So good for him.

Twitter Trend

I'm not gonna lie. I love when coaches actually have Twitter accounts. Generally speaking, you can learn a lot about who a coach is and how ridiculous his interactions with the, 'social media,' world is. With that said, Fitzgerald (@CoachFitz51) seems to be pretty boring. There are a ton of, "Let's go Cats," and "Congrats [fill in NU team] on the great win." If I had to choose my favorite moment, it's gotta be last night's twit pic via the Chicago Cubs, because anytime you get a guy who looks like he doesn't want to be singing the 7th Inning Stretch in the booth, you gotta link to it.

The Name Game:

9.7 Million hits for the one and only Pat Fitzgerald, which means he in neither the one nor the only Pat Fitzgerald. Lucky for him, he is the top hit on Wikipedia, so there's that. The others of note are a Patrick Fitzgerald that is the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois as well as a Patrik Fitzgerald that is a British Singer-Songwriter. And now you know.

The Coordinators!

Mick McCall -- Offensive Coordinator

Not-Very-Pertinent MCA Reference:

Well, I'm on to the crack of dawn
Mowing Down MC's like I'm mowing a lawn

Beastie Boys - Pass the Mic (via emimusic)

Admittedly, I know very little about Northwestern's coordinators. I tried to find some dirt on McCall, but basically all you can say is that he's been responsible for some crafty offenses. I would argue that his greatest accomplishment was getting #PersaStrong created as an internet Meme, but that would be selling this all a little short. Look, this is a career assistant who seems to be extremely loyal to Fitz and Company, and if he can keep the spread attack in balance this season and moving forward, he has quite a bit of job security.

Twitter Trend:

Not only does McCall not have a Wikipedia page, he also does not seem to have a legitimate Twitter account. However, there is a fake McCall (@fakemickmccall). It looks pretty dormant right now.

Unresearched O/U on years it will take to become a head coach:

I'm going to go ahead and go out on a limb and say 4.5 because he seems like a career assistant, but he might bet bored in five years if nothing changes. Since this is totally unresearched and you never know what the future holds (a Fitzgerald Coaching Tree? Sure, why not...), I'm able to say whatever the hell I want and you can only refute it with facts. Um, moving on...

Defensive Coordinator -- Mike Hankwitz

Not-Very-Pertinent MCA Reference:

Now my name is M.C.A. I've got a license to kill
I think you know what time it is it's time to get ill

Beastie Boys - Paul Revere (Live 1994) (via nutri871)

Mike Hankwitz is kind of a funny case for me. He's another one of those career assistants who has kind of been all over the place. For somebody who has been in College Football for 42 years, what does he really have to show for it? The Northwestern sites and teh Google would like to tell you that Hankwitz seems to be a great coordinator who brings improvement each year. In fact, the lead-in on is that Hankwitz led the fifth most-improved unit when he started... Read that again, fifth most-improved. Is there a dumber stat to tout than fifth most-improved? If you have room to grow that much, and you're still only fifth (I believe the year before he started, the Wildcats gave up over 30 points per game and he got them to a shade under 21), it's probably time to reassess strategies.

I don't know what the fanbase thinks about this guy, but good for him I guess. To me, again as an outsider here, the single greatest holdback to Northwestern doing something awesome (i.e. winning a bowl game) is the defense. If this is the current answer, mayhap it is time to start over and look at what you're building. With the relative youth of Fitzgerald, I'm sure it's nice to have a guy who has been around the block a few times, but this coach just seems like a head scratcher to me.

Twitter Trend:

Yeah right. You'd only like to believe that there was a Twitter account for this guy. The only thing I could find on google was a link to a video of him in Twitter. Let's just say he's probably not blowing up Fitz's twitter account with hashtags and instagram photos.

Unresearched O/U on years it will take to become a head coach:

The answer here is 0. If you've been a coordinator for this long and have only been interim coach twice with terrible results, you're not going to be a head coach. I'm sure he's fine with that.

One Last MCA Shoutout

I Want To Say a Little Something That's Long Overdue
The Disrespect To Women Has Got To Be Through
To All The Mothers And Sisters And the Wives And Friends
I Want To Offer My Love And Respect To The End

Beastie Boys - Sure Shot (via emimusic)