July 31, 2007

Off the podium

Everyone could watch on television as Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald took the podium at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, but WildcatReport talked to him in the hallway afterward, where Fitzgerald provided his insights on a variety of topics.

Opening "closed" practices: Maybe the most important and immediate concern for Northwestern fans is access to practice at Camp Kenosha. Northwestern's athletic department created a bit of an uproar last week when it revealed that practices would be closed, except for media and friends of the program.

But Fitzgerald says that closed doesn't really mean closed for the average fan. He said that fans can call the athletic department and ask for a credential, and they will have "no problem" coming to and watching practice.

"There's no change in what we've done from Day 1 last year when we returned from Kenosha," he said. "I love our fans, our players love our fans."

Fitzgerald said that he was disappointed last year when reports of players' injuries were disclosed on the internet. (He winked and said "no offense" in this writer's direction when he said it.) He hopes that this year what happens on the field isn't posted on WildcatReport Message Boards.

"I handle the injury report and I would prefer to keep it that way," he explained. "And I'd like to have that respect (be extended) to our football players."

The Rees file: It didn't take long for Trevor Rees's name to come up after the senior center's much publicized drunk driving arrest in April. Fitzgerald reiterated that Rees has been reinstated to the team and that any future punishments will be determined by athletic director Mark Murphy, president Henry Bienen and himself.

"We're not prepared to do anything right now. We don't have a timetable and we're not in any hurry to make a decision" regarding any potential punishments for Rees, he said.

Fitzgerald has spoken to Rees, whom the coach characterized as contrite. "He's very humble and very disappointed, and he's also very excited about the season."

Fitzgerald said that Rees has been working out "diligently" on his own.

"I look forward to seeing the shape he's in on Monday, when we have our conditioning test at 8 a.m.," he said.

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