Will Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald be 2013's hottest coaching rumor?

Jonathan Daniel

With Mack Brown and Lane Kiffin on the hot seat, expect Pat Fitzgerald's name to remain a source of chatter all year.

We're just two weeks into the college football season, but two coaches of major programs already find themselves firmly in the hot seat. USC's Lane Kiffin and Mack Brown of Texas each stand at 1-1 on the year after disappointing Week 2 losses to unranked teams. Rumblings in Southern California and all around Texas suggest the fans are less than happy with their head coaches, and one name has been repeatedly raised as an up-and-coming star to replace them -- Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has extensive ties to Northwestern, beyond just his current job. He was an All-American linebacker at Northwestern and helped lead them to the 1996 Rose Bowl -- the school's second-ever bowl appearance. He took over the program as a head coach in 2006 after serving as the linebackers coach for five years and has led the Wildcats to five consecutive bowl appearances with a win in last year's Gator Bowl serving as the team's first bowl win since 1949 (and their second ever). Fitzgerald is already Northwestern's all-time winningest coach, with 50 victories at the helm of the program, and is one of only three coaches to lead the Wildcats to three consecutive winning seasons.

With a coaching resume that strong, the bigger programs are likely to start knocking soon, but would Fitzgerald want to leave? A former player at Northwestern, he obviously has a strong connection to the program. He's making good money, but nothing close to what Texas or USC could offer him, and the fans love him so much they want him to coach more sports at the school.

USC athletic director Pat Haden is apparently a fan of Fitzgerald's, and the two have reportedly spoken at functions. We will have to see if that is enough to sway Fitzgerald from his comfortable spot with the Wildcats, who are currently ranked No. 17 in the AP Poll. USC and Texas are both unranked.

Another rising star who could get hired by a major program is Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. After making an early recruiting splash with the Commodores, the coach was able to translate that onto the field. Vanderbilt made bowl games in each of Franklin's first two seasons, the first time in program history the team had back-to-back postseason appearances. The Commodores also finished ranked in both polls for the first time since 1948.

Franklin may be more likely to leave his current position than Fitzgerald, as he has no previous connections to the program. We will keep a close eye on these two and any possible destinations for them as the season progresses.

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