Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald won the 2020 Dodd Trophy for "Coach of the Year," the organization announced Thursday.
The Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation said the Dodd Trophy is awarded to a football coach whose program embodies their three pillars of scholarship, leadership and integrity, while also exemplifying success on the field.
"Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to the program’s second Big Ten West Division title and berth in the Big Ten Championship game earlier this year. With 15 seasons at the helm at Northwestern, Pat Fitzgerald is now the second-longest tenured head coach in the Big Ten. Earlier this season, he surpassed 100 career victories as head coach of the Wildcats. His 105 career victories are the 23rd most by an active FBS coach," a release said of Fitzgerald.
According to the organization, Fitzgerald is one of eight coaches at Northwestern to be the "all-time winningest coach," ranking fourth.
Northeastern football has appeared in 16 bowl games, 10 of which had Fitzgerald serving as the head coach. Fitzgerald has coached the team to four out of the five bowl victories in the program's history.
“Coach Dodd is a legendary figure of our game and it is an absolute honor to win the award that bears his name,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a program award and I am privileged to be the head coach of the best student-athletes in the country alongside a staff that is second-to-none. Coach Dodd's pillars of scholarship, leadership and integrity are the foundation of a Wildcat."
The organization added that Northwestern players have also achieved the high academic levels off the field, with 69 players earning Academic All-Beg Ten honors this year.
According to a release, for the fourth consectutive year, Northwestern football earned the highest graduation success rate, sitting at 97%, among all FBS programs.
The Wildcats were the only Big Ten football program to earn an academic progress rating public recognition award from the NCAA in 2020, which is given to programs ranking in the top 10% of their sport.
“Coach Fitzgerald truly embodies everything that The Dodd Trophy stands for,” Jim Terry, chairman of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation, said. “He’s built the Northwestern program into a perennial contender in the Big Ten, while also achieving new milestones in the classroom and making a positive impact in his community. Coach Dodd would be honored to have someone win the award who carries on his legacy in the modern era of the sport.”
The team also makes weekly school and hospital visits, along with participating in Chicago charity events such as the Northwestern Dance Marathon, the Special Olympics, Misericordia and Uplifting Athletes, a release said.
The organization noted that winners from the previous two years and first-year coaches at the institution are not eligible to win the trophy.
After guiding his team to the Big Ten Championship Game for the second time in three years, Fitzgerald could potentially draw interest from NFL teams after the season ends, according to a new report.
That report, from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, suggests that multiple teams could reach out to Northwestern to formally request permission to talk to Fitzgerald about their openings this offseason.
At least two teams have already inquired about Fitzgerald’s availability, according to Schefter, and others could follow suit after the team’s bowl game in the coming weeks.
Fitzgerald has been floated as a potential coaching candidate for years, and has occasionally been linked to several teams, including the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, the latter of whom Fitzgerald declined to interview with when their job was available in 2019.