Candidates To Replace Pat Fitzgerald Emerge As Situation Gets Uglier By The Second

The biggest story in college football right now is the shocking firing of longtime Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald.

It’s clear that much more is to come of the hazing allegations that ultimately cost Fitzgerald his job.

According to Fitzgerald’s attorney Dan Webb, Northwestern made “two different major breach of contract claims” in the firing of Fitzgerald. He also noted the significant damage the situation has caused to the coach’s previously stellar reputation. 

“I cannot understand how you could terminate someone for cause when they [Northwestern] admit that their own lawyer does not have any evidence that my client ever knew anything at all, about any of the alleged hazing behavior,” Webb said.

“If I present that to a jury someday, a jury is going have a hard time believing that you can terminate someone for cause when they didn’t know anything about [the incidents].”

“Under Illinois law, an oral agreement is a contract. They had all the facts available to them. They thought the proper punishment was a two-week suspension without pay. That was their judgment. They made the decision. We agreed to go along with it, and we issued a statement to support them,” Webb further explained.

“So, they’ve now breached an oral agreement and damaged his reputation enormously. And for no reason. This entire series of events by Northwestern, I cannot understand it.”

“There’s a huge reputational issue that will be part of it. If we were to proceed with litigation, it would be a very large damage case because he can claim loss compensation for eight years left on his contract. And 10 years in the future, he can’t replace it. So, you’re talking about a huge amount of money,” Webb continued.

Needless to say, the ugly situation is far from over and we’ll be closely monitoring it throughout.

Wildcats Defensive Coordinator David Braun has been named interim head coach.

With the season quickly approaching, it remains to be seen what the University’s long-term plan is to replace Fitzgerald on a permanent basis.

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported that former Notre Dame and current Alabama Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees is a possible target. 

“He’s entering his first season as Alabama’s offensive coordinator after a long tenure at Notre Dame, his alma mater. Despite being one of the youngest offensive coordinators in the country, Rees does have experience that Northwestern could value as it searches for a new head coach,” Feldman said.

Other potential candidates include…

David Braun – Now the Northwestern Interim Head Coach – He’s expected to temporarily lead the program while a (true) head coach is determined. Braun recently joined Northwestern this season after working at North Dakota State from 2019 to 2022.

Bronco Mendenhall – Former Head Coach at Virginia and BYU – He might be seeking a long-term position rather than a short-term stopover, considering his involvement in last year’s coaching changes. If Northwestern decides to look for an external leader, Mendenhall, who has an impressive overall record of 135-81 from his combined coaching stints at BYU and Virginia, would be a suitable and high-quality choice.

Mike Kafka – Offensive Coordinator for the New York Giants – He’s another potential candidate who has a connection to Northwestern as a former player. Kafka played quarterback for the Wildcats from 2005 to 2009 and had notable success. After a brief NFL playing career, Kafka worked as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2016 and later became the quarterbacks coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018. Prior to the 2022 season, Kafka was hired as the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants.

Ken Niumatalolo – Former Head Coach at Navy – He achieved a record of 109-83 during his tenure from the 2007 bowl game until the end of the 2022 season. Despite his dismissal from Navy, Niumatalolo’s solid coaching abilities make him a suitable candidate to direct the program going forward.

David Shaw – Former Head Coach at Stanford – He stepped down after a 12-year tenure at the end of the 2022 season. With his experience at a prestigious academic institution and his stable leadership style, Shaw could be a good fit at Northwestern.

Jeff Monken – Head Coach at Army – He’s an Illinois native and has led Army to a 64-49 record since taking over in 2014. Additionally, he previously achieved a record of 38-16 as the head coach at Georgia Southern from 2010 to 2013. While Monken’s option offense is well-known, it could be adapted to fit the Big Ten style of play.

Willie Fritz – Head Coach at Tulane – He has achieved success at every coaching position he has held, including Central Missouri, Sam Houston, Georgia Southern, and Tulane. With a 43-45 record at Tulane, a program that faces similar academic challenges as Northwestern, Fritz led the team to an AAC title and a Cotton Bowl victory last year. Considering his track record, Fritz would be an excellent candidate to consider.

Jim Grobe – Former Head Coach at Wake Forest and Baylor – He has experience managing a late change in leadership. He led Baylor to a 7-6 record as the head coach in the 2016 season after Art Briles was fired. Grobe previously held a head coaching record of 77-82 at Wake Forest and 33-33-1 at Ohio (1995-2000).

Chris Creighton – Head Coach at Eastern Michigan – He exemplifies the notion that a head coach cannot be solely evaluated based on their win-loss record. Although his overall record at Eastern Michigan is 46-61, Creighton has led the program to five bowl games in the last seven years and has achieved four seasons with at least seven victories. This represents significant progress for a program that had only one bowl appearance and three seasons with seven or more wins prior to Creighton’s arrival.

Although not the sexiest of jobs, who do you think Northwestern should hire?

More importantly, how do you think the university handled the Fitzgerald situation?