Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald is the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year in a unanimous vote

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats encourages his team against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Ryan Field on November 24, 2018 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

EVANSTON – Saturday night will tell if Northwestern will be the Big Ten’s best team for 2018, but for sure the Wildcats know they’ve got the coach who performed the best during the regular season.

On Tuesday night, the conference named Pat Fitzgerald the coach of the year as he earned both the coaches and media vote for the honor.

It’s the fifth time a Wildcats’ coach has been given the honor by the conference. Randy Walker was the last to win the award in 2000 as he led Northwestern to a co-Big Ten Championship. Two conference titles, including the breakthrough 1995 season where the Wildcats went to the Rose Bowl earned Gary Barnett the honor that year along with 1996.

Dennis Green also earned the honor in 1982 as his squad ended the program’s FBS record 34-game losing streak.

Times are much different now with Fitzgerald’s program, which made some history this fall. After starting 1-3, the Wildcats ran off seven-straight Big Ten victories to claim their first-ever West Division championship. That clinched them a spot in the conference championship game, where they’ll take on Ohio State for a spot in the Rose Bowl.

While the title is new, the success is not for Fitzgerald at Northwestern after he took over for Walker following his death in the summer of 2006. He’s 95-69 in 13 years with the Wildcats with eight bowl appearances. That includes three postseason victories – the Gator Bowl in 2012, the Pinstripe Bowl in 2016, and the Music City Bowl in 2017.

Fitzgerald’s teams have also won 10 games three times while finishing over .500 on eight occasions.