Pat Fitzgerald happy to be 'a knucklehead'

November, 12, 2012
11/12/12
4:30
PM ET
Big Ten coaches run the gamut of sideline demeanor.

Nebraska's Bo Pelini can't escape his past (Texas A&M). Iowa's Kirk Ferentz takes heat for being too stoic. Michigan's Brady Hoke doesn't wear a headset. Purdue's Danny Hope fights crime and coaches at the same time.

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald certainly falls on the spicier end of the spectrum. He doesn't hide his emotions and can be extremely animated, like in Saturday's game at Michigan.

After a personal-foul penalty on Michigan's Brennen Beyer midway through the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald started jumping around like he'd just won the Super Bowl. Northwestern trailed 28-24 at the time.

"Our tone and our attitude on the boundary wasn't very good," Fitzgerald explained Monday. "It got pretty negative, we had some stuff go against us. So as a motivator, you've got a couple options. Sometimes, you've got to be a disciplinarian. Sometimes, you've got to be a guy who's going to give somebody a hug and be there. And sometimes you've got to be a clown and a knucklehead.

"I'm a really good knucklehead. I pride myself in that."

He said his response was directed toward his team to change their attitude. It seemed to work as Northwestern scored on the next play to reclaim the lead.

Maybe Fitzgerald needed another outburst in the final minute of regulation as Michigan rallied to tie the game and force overtime, where it won 38-31.

"The guys responded," Fitzgerald said. "I prefer not to do that. I prefer not to have our attitude go a little sour, but that happens sometimes."

Don't expect Fitzgerald to become Tom Landry this week at Michigan State. He takes a similar approach in practice and carries it over to Saturdays.

"Sometimes I turn into a knucklehead," he said, "but at least I know who I am, and I'm cool with it. I'm all right with it. That's the way I'm going to coach our guys. That's what they expect from me. I think they'd be ticked off at me if I didn't coach them that way. I've got to keep my composure and keep my poise, I understand all that.

"Like I tell [my wife] Stacy all the time, you'll have to excuse my passion. Get over it."

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