Although Northwestern had a winning record for the first time in three years, the Wildcats are still making notable changes.
In his first major move as NU’s full-time head coach, David Braun has elected to fire offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, Matt Fortuna reported Thursday afternoon. ESPN’s Sean McDonough also announced the move during Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl.
Sources: Northwestern has parted ways with OC Mike Bajakian, special teams coordinator/TEs coach Jeff Genyk and director of sports performance for football Jay Hooten. https://t.co/fxngM3l8wk— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) December 28, 2023
Bajakian served as the Wildcats’ OC from 2020-23. His first year in Evanston was rather fruitful in taking over for Mick McCall, posting 24.7 points per game and leading NU to a 7-2 record with a Citrus Bowl win. However, things have soured considerably in the last three seasons — particularly from 2021-22, when the ‘Cats scored 15.16 points per game.
There was marginal improvement with sixth-year quarterback Ben Bryant under center this season, but Northwestern’s 22.1 PPG is still 104th in the FBS. Other problematic areas have been rushing — in which NU ranks 119th at 101.4 yards per game — time of possession, in which NU is 101st — and penalties, where the ‘Cats have amassed 34 accepted blocking fouls in 11 games.
Even when the Wildcats had bright moments, inconsistency ensued. NU posted 24 first-half points against Maryland, but mustered only three field goals in a lackluster second half. Likewise, Northwestern was the first team to score 24 points in the first 30 minutes in Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium since 2008, but then was held scoreless — and well under 50 yards of offense — in the second half.
On top of subpar offensive production, Bajakian generated strong negative reactions when he donned a “Cats Against The World” shirt in support of former Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald in the first open practice following Fitzgerald’s firing on Aug. 9. Such shirts were reprimanded by NU athletic director Derrick Gragg in a subsequent statement.
Bajakian, 49, previously spent time as the OC at Boston College, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Central Michigan. He also served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterbacks coach from 2015-18.