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Why I ranked Pat Fitzgerald higher than Gary Patterson

Alabama’s Nick Saban tops my list

Inspired by a recent post on In the Bleachers and the Twitter conversations that preceded it, I went ahead and ranked my top ten coaches entering the 2011 season. I hope you will read the column for my thoughts on each coach on the list (read the story here).

The initial reaction to the list has been mixed but the fact that I left TCU’s Gary Patterson and included Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald on the list has raised the most questions my way.

Only a fool wouldn't rank Patterson in the top ten, right? Getty Images.

Let me preface this by saying it was not a particularly easy decision for me to make. Given the criteria I laid out you would think that Patterson would be a shoe-in to be on this list and I will not dispute his track record as one that is incredible. This is a man who has accumulated a record of 98-28 and has gone 6-4 in bowl games, including this past season’s Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. TCU has enjoyed a great amount of success under Patterson, winning a Conference USA championship and three Mountain West championships. So why did I leave Patterson off the list, especially since I did include Boise State head coach Chris Peterson?

As with all lists, this was a compilation of my personal feelings in regards to the coaches, with consideration being given to their current situations and their accomplishments. I have been a fan of Patterson and Fitzgerald for a long time now, and anyone who has been following me for a while should hopefully know that. This was a very difficult decision for me to make.

One of the reasons I ranked Fitzgerald in my top ten is because I view his position at Northwstern as a less favorable spot than Patterson’s spot at TCU. Patterson took over a TCU program that was starting to move up in terms of quality and Patterson ensured that the upward movement continued while playing most of his games against opponents largely from Conference USA and the Mountain West. TCU, being in Texas, has an easier time recruiting student athletes than Northwestern does. The Wildcats have academic standards that exceed most schools at the FBS level and Northwestern competes in a conference with the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State. They are also nestled in with some major programs with Notre Dame and Missouri not that far away and we have not even touched on the proximity to schools like Illinois.

For Fitzgerald to put together three straight winning seasons at Northwestern for the first time since 1958-1960 scores major points for me. If I were starting a program form scratch and Fitzgerald was available I wouldn’t think twice about making an offer to him. Patterson would be on my short list I can assure you, but I like Fitzgerald’s personality more than almost any coach. He is devoted to his program, has a deep appreciation for the game, and is a better motivator than he is often given credit for.

Is Patterson a good coach? Absolutely.

But I think Fitzgerald is better, and I fully believe that in time that will be proven to be justified.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.