Athlon Sports ranks the college coaching jobs, Northwestern No. 63
Wednesday afternoon, Athlon Sports released its rankings of the top coaching jobs in the nation. Yes, the top of the list is filled with the typical “names” and traditional powers. Northwestern did not have a hope of being named one of the top jobs. And the Wildcats job is pretty much nailed down for the next eternity while Pat Fitzgerald still wants to coach.
Still lists like these from one of the major college football publications tends to serve as a bit of a litmus test for how far Northwestern has come as a football program and whether it is gaining national respect.
Certainly going to five straight bowl games, being bowl eligible for six straight years and winning the first bowl game in 64 years has done enough to raise Northwestern’s profile? The Wildcats certainly would not be in the 100s like they might have been back in the Dark Days in the 1980s. You can certainly win at Northwestern now. And Fitzgerald has done an amazing job increasing the talent level with each successive recruiting class and the facilities are coming.
Athlon has them No. 63 . . . behind Vanderbilt (No. 62), Kansas (No. 61) and even Minnesota (No. 56). It seems Northwestern still has a perception gap to fight among the national media. Here is what Athlon wrote of the job:
As the only private school in the Big Ten, Northwestern can be an attractive option for a top-flight recruit from the Midwest who is looking for an elite academic institution. The university has recently approved a $225-250 million facilities overhaul for all of the athletic programs. Football will no doubt be a huge beneficiary. However, no matter how much money is pumped into the program, Northwestern will always struggle to keep up with the elite programs in the Big Ten, from a recruiting and facilities standpoint. You can win at Northwestern, but it will always be a challenge.
It seems like Athlon is going with the “no way they can be consistent with this winning thing” mentality with Northwestern. Even though Vanderbilt has less winning tradition and even stiffer competition in the SEC (not to mention two losses to Northwestern in the last three years and the mark of shame from backing out of the contract to play the fellow private school).
I mean, Illinois cracked the top-50. Sure the Illini may have the resources but what have they done with it? That program is an utter wreck and has been nothing but disappointment since that Rose Bowl trip we never speak of.
The Wildcats program certainly presents a unique challenge. They have those academic standards to overcome but Pat Fitzgerald has largely done it and has created a consistent program where winning is no longer something nice, but expected. It is hard to imagine Northwestern having a season where it is not in bowl contention, if not in a bowl game. Fitzgerald has built the program to that level. And the administration is fully behind him and his program as signified by that large investment in Ryan Fieldhouse.
That is certainly a lot more than can be said at Minnesota, Illinois or even Purdue right now. Even with all those supposed advantages that they have over Northwestern.
Sure sounds like Athlon needs to rethink its perception of Northwestern. I guess winning is the only way to do that. Good thing Pat Fitzgerald is here to stay and we will not have to worry about filling that post for some time.