Pat Fitzgerald is staying at Northwestern.
Among rumors of job offers elsewhere, the head football coach announced Tuesday that a newly agreed upon contract extension will keep him here for not one, not two, but 10 years.
This is more than us just keeping the man who has led Northwestern to three-consecutive bowl games for the first time in team history. It's more than the fact Fitzgerald is a two-time Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Award winner, a 2008 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and, most recently, the inaugural recipient of the 1WORLD Sports Coach of the Year award.
Pat Fitzgerald has become much more than just the head football coach.
He is the heartbeat of this university.
The man has established himself as the face of Northwestern sports, defining what it means to truly bleed purple, and legions of fans have followed behind him. Everywhere you go on campus -- even in the offseason -- you'll find students wearing "Fitz is my Facebook friend" t-shirts. Walk through any dorm and you'll find popsicle sticks with his face taped onto them; wall art in spring, football game props in the fall. His posts on Twitter are read religiously by athletes, fans and alumni alike, and the videos he uploads onto his Facebook are 'liked' by the dozen.
He and his players have reached out to Evanston and the surrounding communities in dozens of ways. Always a proponent of the university's academic excellence, his players achieved their highest GPA in team history last quarter with a 3.02 mark. And most recently, he was a judge at the first ever Student-Athlete Talent Show. It's the little things he does that have allowed the students of this university to claim him as their own. And now, it's going to stay that way until 2020.
As a student here, I've witnessed the Fitz frenzy that has taken over the school. As an athlete, I've experienced his charisma first-hand. To see Fitz in and around the stadium facilities -- always greeting us with a warm hello -- and to constantly find him cheering loudly at our games down the left field line has been a priceless part of my experience here at Northwestern. Even finding his online congratulations over Facebook and Twitter to fellow Northwestern teams is a small gesture that has spoken volumes.
His players rave about his likeability and charm. Their respect for him is through the roof, and they sing praises of his annual Thanksgiving invites into his home.
To the outside world, Pat Fitzgerald is the coach who has led Northwestern to three-consecutive bowl games, the man who, earlier this year, was named a finalist for the inaugural Joseph V. Paterno Coach of the Year Award.
But to the students of Northwestern, he is ours.
He's the common link between the saxophonist and the basketball player, the engineer and the journalist.
He's the figure we search for on the Ryan Field sidelines from the stands, the voice we would recognize from a mile away.
He's the coach we've rallied around come fall, and the family man we've come to know and love in spring.
And he's here to stay.