Northwestern made it official Tuesday and announced a new contract for coach Pat Fitzgerald that runs through the 2020 season.
Fitzgerald's previous extension, signed in June 2009, ran through the 2015 campaign. His new 10-year contract begins immediately. Salary figures were not disclosed, as Northwestern is a private institution.
"There is no better individual to lead Chicago's Big Ten team than Pat," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said in a prepared statement. "He is a tremendous teacher and truly values developing young men athletically, academically and socially. Our football program is having unprecedented success -- on the football field, in the classroom and in the community -- and that is due to Pat's outstanding leadership. Northwestern is committed to giving our football program all the necessary resources to do tremendous things on and off the field. We certainly are excited to receive the results from our Master Facility Plan which will help direct the next steps regarding our athletic facilities."
The last part is significant.
Although every coach covets security and salary, which this agreement provides, Fitzgerald wants to see Northwestern committed to moving the program forward. That means better facilities and a more comfortable situation for assistants, who have to deal with the high cost of living in the Evanston/Chicago area.
"I'm humbled and appreciative of the commitment shown by Northwestern," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "With this support from our administration, our coaches and players expect to compete for championships."
The new contract won't stop other more prestigious programs from pursuing the 36-year-old Fitzgerald in the coming years. Penn State likely will make a push when Joe Paterno steps down, and if Fitzgerald keeps making bowl games, others will come calling. Perhaps there will be an offer that lures him away, but it's a lot less likely than most people think.
Northwestern is showing that it can be as committed to Fitzgerald as the coach is to his alma mater. It's a good sign going forward.