Northwestern will soon bid adieu to one of its greatest coaches in program history, as defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will retire following the end of the season, 247Sports’ Brandon Marcello reported.
He reportedly informed head coach Pat Fitzgerald privately before the season that this season would be his last.
The Wildcat defensive coordinator, who turned 73 years old today, has spent 51 seasons as coaching football at nine different programs. In his five-decades-long career as a graduate assistant, assistant coach and interim head coach, he has posted a 399-205-7 record, leaving him just one shy of earning his 400th career win with a Big Ten Championship game and bowl game ahead.
After serving stints at Michigan, Arizona, Purdue, Western Michigan, Colorado, Kansas, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin, Fitz hired him in 2008. Since his arrival in Evanston, Hank has coached some of the program’s best defenses and individual players and helped NU reach nine bowl games in 13 years.
He has racked up quite the resume in his time as a coach: he served under four Hall of Fame coaches, won 11 conference titles, coached in 32 bowl games, coordinated defenses 14 top-25 defenses and won a national title at Colorado in 1990.
Hankwitz earned a nomination for the Broyles Award this season, an honor bestowed to the top assistant coach in college football. His defense ranks second in the nation in efficiency this season. NU currently ranks 13th in total defense (313.9 yards per game) and second in scoring defense (14.6 points per game).
Known for his discipline and emphasis on sound football as the “doctor of fundamentals,” Hankwitz began his college football career at the University of Michigan as a player in the late 1960s under the legendary Bo Schembechler as a tight end and linebacker. He started on the 1969 Big Ten Championship team that went to the Rose Bowl and returned in 1970 to begin his coaching career with the Wolverines as a graduate assistant.
With a huge matchup ahead in Indianapolis this weekend, Hankwitz will have the chance to get his 400th win against a rival that dates back over 50 years. In his first season as a coach, Michigan ultimately fell to the No. 5 Buckeyes in the final game of the year, but the Wildcats will have the opportunity to rewrite that story and send their beloved coach out on a high note.
While names for his replacement have yet to surface, current linebackers coach Tim McGarigle and associate head coach (defensive backs) Matt MacPherson will likely be in the mix for internal promotions.