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Bill Carmody vs. Pat Fitzgerald: Who has had more success?

by Jonah Rosenblum (@jonahlrosenblum)

At times, they seem like night and day. Northwestern football rises triumphant with Pat Fitzgerald at its helm – the strong, charismatic coach serving as a beacon for football players all over the country. He is a masterful recruiter, praised everywhere for his honesty and his vigorous promotion of everything purple. Then, there is Northwestern basketball, with the evil genius Bill Carmody constantly exploding on the sideline. He is a master strategist, brilliantly allowing his teams to overcome athletic disadvantages through backdoor cuts and sweet shooting. While Fitzgerald has been praised as one of the top football coaches in the country and has a contact that will keep him in Evanston through 2020, Carmody’s short-term contact was blasted by many critics, who began the Fire Carmody movement long ago. And yet for all of their supposed differences, their programs stand at roughly same place ­– no longer on the outside looking in, but not quite on the inside looking out, either. Both men have led their programs to similar heights with widely different fan reactions.

  Bill Carmody/NU Basketball Pat Fitzgerald/NU Football
Big Game Blues The Wildcats were on the brink of so many big victories last year, be it against Michigan or Ohio State, but failed to pull out a single one. Two overtime losses to the Wolverines hurt deeply. The Wildcats held double-digit leads against Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska, any of which would have cemented their place in the Top 25. Instead, they lost all three.
Final Outcome At the end of the day, this Northwestern basketball team is a middle-of-the-conference team, consistently finishing near the middle of the pack. When it comes to the postseason, this team is a consistent National Invitation Tournament invitee, usually falling in the first couple of rounds. The Wildcats have yet to make it to New York. At the end of the day, this Northwestern football team is a middle-of-the-conference team, consistently finishing near the middle of the pack. The Wildcats constantly make mid-range bowl games, which they lose in heartbreaking fashion every single time. The Wildcats haven’t racked up a bowl win since 1948.
Taking Care of Business There was a time when Northwestern couldn’t be relied upon to win the games it needed to win. Losses to Iowa and Penn State, both miserable teams, cemented the Wildcats fall from NCAA Tournament contention in 2010-2011. But recently, Northwestern has put it together, demolishing Nebraska at home in 2011-2012, while edging Iowa and Penn State on the road to keep their tourney hopes alive. Northwestern football has had its share of letdowns, whether it was a loss to Purdue in 2010, a loss to Syracuse in 2009, a loss to Indiana in 2008, a loss to Duke in 2007 or a loss to New Hampshire in 2006. Now, the Wildcats seem to be following the basketball team’s motto of “no bad losses,” easily destroying its non-conference and weaker Big Ten foes, while lacking any signature wins this season to make them stand out.
Big Ten Record For all of their big starts, the Wildcats usually put up a .500 record in conference play. Their last three seasons have featured Big Ten records of 8-10, 7-11 and 7-11, for a combined record of 22-32. For all of their big starts, the Wildcats have usually finished just about even in Big Ten play, with conference records of 3-5, 3-5 and 5-3 the last three seasons, for a combined mark of 11-13.
Charming Or Replaceable Depending on how you look at it, Welsh-Ryan Arena with its old benches and horribly outdated scoreboard is either a charming reminder of yore or a pitiful reminder that Northwestern needs to build a new arena. Depending on how you look at it, Ryan Field with its two looming towers and endless high-school bleachers is either charming or in need of a replacement. History stands on its side, but its amenities pale in comparison.
Ranked No Longer When the Northwestern basketball team is ranked, well, they tend not to be ranked much longer. Fitzgerald's teams are 0-3 this year when ranked. They've won once as a ranked team since 2006.
Filling the stadium Northwestern basketball brilliantly hides away the hordes of opposition fans that descend upon Evanston every year in the upper rafters. Northwestern football relegates its visiting fans to the slummy high-school bleachers on the East side of the stadium, none worse than Sections 101-103.
Perennial Problem For Northwestern basketball, the lack of a big man has hampered it in countless big games. Kyle Rowley, Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti, simply put, were not Big Ten-level post players, meaning that the Wildcats had little offense inside and were always at a disadvantage on the boards. For Northwestern football, the eyesore has been its secondary ever since Jordan Mabin, Brad Phillips, Brian Peters and Sherrick McManis began to fade in the sunset. Teams have felt very comfortable picking the Wildcats apart deep for the past couple of years, winning numerous aerial battles.
On The Bright Side Northwestern could solve some of its lingering post problems with Alex Olah in the post and super-tall and super-raw Chier Ajou coming down the pipeline. There’s hope in the secondary, as Ibraheim Campbell and Nick VanHoose have helped lead an undeniably improved backfield this season.
It Gets Better For Northwestern basketball, its lack of athleticism was deeply engrained as a program-wide issue. Then, John Shurna dunked. And Drew Crawford finished off alley-oops. And Northwestern basketball could suddenly drive to the hole – at least to some extent. Jershon Cobb provides another athlete, who can step back and drive slickly to the hoop. For Northwestern football, its lack of a rushing game was so long a thorn in its side. Enter Venric Mark, who has stunned onlookers with his ability to bang bodies through the middle as well as take any handoff to the house. After years in which the Wildcats failed to produce an 100-yard back, Mark has topped the century mark seven times this season.