The Northwestern Wildcats have made national news for all the wrong reasons this month. Reports of racial issues and hazing – first reported by the school’s student newspaper – eventually toppled the school’s head coach.
The news broke on Monday that the Big Ten institution, based in Evanston, fired longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald. That ended the tenure of the Midlothian, Illinois, native after he led the program for 17 years.
With Fitzgerald’s dismissal in the rearview mirror, IllinoisBet continues its coverage of sports and Illinois sports betting issues by developing hypothetical odds for the rumored candidates to take over Northwestern’s football program.
Fitzgerald Brought Success Before His Firing
Fitzgerald’s run included 110 wins, five bowl game victories and two B1G West Division titles, and that came years after his playing career in purple and white. He was a consensus All-America linebacker in 1995 and 1996 for the Wildcats.
Now Northwestern is left to rebuild its football program. Athletic director Derrick Gragg has a university-altering coaching search on his hands in the wake of the football scandal, which broke out and made national news after initial reporting by the school's The Daily Northwestern newspaper.
Next Northwestern Head Coach Hypothetical Odds
Several Up-And-Coming Candidates Stand Out
These hypothetical odds on who might step in to permanently replace Fitzgerald are not to be found on Illinois sportsbook apps, only here at IllinoisBet.
One of the school’s most prolific passers leads our list of potential candidates to replace Fitzgerald in Evanston, with current New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka coming in at No. 1.
Kafka, who was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009, has been in and around coaching in the college and NFL ranks since 2016. His sideline career began as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. Since then, the 35-year-old Chicago native has served as an offensive assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs (between 2017 and 2021) and the Giants, who he joined in 2022.
Other outside the program candidates that could assume the Northwestern head coaching position are Army head coach Jeff Monken, Tulane head coach Willie Fritz and Power Five offensive coordinators Sherrone Moore of Michigan and Sean Lewis of Colorado.
Timetable Is Tight For Hiring Coach
One complication for the Wildcats is that the program kicks off its season in less than three months – the opener is Sept. 3 at conference foe Rutgers – so any coach has a short runway in assessing and keeping the team’s roster for the upcoming campaign.
What’s even trickier is that the NCAA’s transfer portal rules allow any Northwestern player to transfer within the next 30 calendar days because of the school’s decision to fire its head coach. That could create additional roster turmoil for the school’s next leader.
Of the potential candidates on our list, Kafka has the best hypothetical odds of replacing Fitzgerald, at 16.7%, while Monken and Fritz come in at 12.5% apiece.
Facing roster upheaval is nothing new for Monken, who led a struggling Black Knights program to a 64-49 record over the past 10 years. But Army runs a triple option and that is radically different from the Wildcats’ offense of the recent past.
One way or another, Northwestern will have a new coach this fall for the first time since 2006, presenting a sizable challenge and opportunity for the athletics department in Evanston.
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