A visitor to the Northwestern locker room at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field following the Wildcats’ 34–20 Gator Bowl victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday might have noticed pieces of cotton strewn all over the floor. If they did, they would have been looking at the remains of Northwestern’s “bowl monkey.”
In recent years, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern athletics staff had dressed a monkey in a jersey with the number of years since the program’s last bowl victory, representing the monkey on the program’s collective back. Heading into Tuesday’s game, that number was “64,” as the team’s last bowl win came all the way back in the 1949 Rose Bowl.
Following the Gator Bowl triumph, Fitzgerald threw the monkey to his players and told them, “Have fun tearing the bejeezus out of it!” All that remained was the head, which Fitzgerald brought with him to the podium at the postgame press conference.
Consider it a trophy for Fitzgerald to celebrate something only one Northwestern coach before him has enjoyed: The satisfaction of winning a bowl game.