Football coach appointed to Ill. ethics panel

February 5, 2009 5:04:50 PM PST
The panel appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to review political ethics in Illinois following the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich held its second meeting on Thursday.The 15 member panel has several surprising members. One is Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald.

It is quite a diverse commission with talents and knowledge both inside and outside government. One of the latter is the young big-ten football coach known for his intensity. What does he bring to the table? He briefly had the same thought when the call came.

"I said, you sure you're calling the right Pat Fitzgerald?" said Pat Fitzgerald, Illinois Reform Committee member.

As a football coach, Pat Fitzgerald knows a bit about intensity, motivation, and growing leaders. Now he is in an unfamiliar role, but one he's humbly accepted.

The chairman of the commission says he picked Fitzgerald because he's young, an outsider to government, unafraid to ask to ask basic questions.

"My big question is where's the integrity? Someone is accountable to someone else in most ways, most businesses I've seen," said Fitzgerald. "And so when I look at politics, who's holding our politicians accountable? You'd like to think it's the pepple of Illinois, but how much information are we really getting? Where are these decisions being made?"

"Governor Blagojevich made secrecy, not sunshine, the default position of state government," said Lisa Madigan, Illinois attorney general.

On Thursday, Pat Fitzgerald and his fellow commissioners had a lesson in government transparency or the lack of it. That is but one of the subjects they'll make recommendations on in less than three months. It's a tight timetable, something the coach knows a lot about.

"When you teach and coach the way I have in my role, you hope to find one way to make it better for a young man in a four or five years' time. We've got 100 days to make one thing we can improve," said Fitzergald.

The coach says he is humbled and flattered with the invitation to serve. He missed the first commission meeting because he was off recruiting. But that's done now. He'll have more time to devote to the new challenge - after Friday that is. His wife is scheduled to give birth, and on that matter, she is the commission chairman.