ROSEMONT — Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald is the unanimous choice for Big Ten coach of the year.
The conference on Tuesday announced half its postseason awards based on voting by coaches and media. Fitzgerald led the Wildcats (8-4) to the West Division title after going winless in nonconference play and losing several starters to injuries.
Athletic Director Jim Phillips told the Chicago Tribune that Fitzgerald winning the award is a “huge deal. No question he is deserving of it. He always deflects the recognition, pushing it to the kids and the (assistant) coaches. But he is the leader of this operation.”
Michigan's Devin Bush is defensive player of the year and top linebacker. Michigan State's Kenny Willekes was voted top defensive lineman and Iowa's Amani Hooker top defensive back.
Michigan had five players named to the coaches' All-Big Ten first-team defense, with Bush joined by Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary, Lavert Hill and David Long. Other picks were Joe Bachie and Willekes of Michigan State, Dre'Mont Jones of Ohio State, Paddy Fisher of Northwestern and Amani Oruwariye of Penn State.
Illini kicker honored
Illinois senior Chase McLaughlin was named the Big Ten's Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year. In addition, McLaughlin was voted first-team All-Big Ten by the league's coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media.
McLaughlin made 20-of-25 field goals attempts, ranking fourth in Illini history in makes and seventh in accuracy (.800). He also led the Big Ten and was ninth in FBS in field goals per game (1.67) and paced the league and was 25th in FBS in points scored (96). McLaughlin tied for FBS lead with nine 40+ field goals made and was second in FBS with four 50+ field goals.
McLaughlin becomes the first Illini to win one of the 11 Big Ten position awards, which were created in 2011 to coincide with the first Big Ten Championship game. He is the first Illini to win a major Big Ten award since 2007 when Rashard Mendenhall (Offensive Player of the Year), Arrelious Benn (Freshman of the Year) and Ron Zook (Coach of the Year) all took home major conference honors, and is the first Illini kicker to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors since Chris White in 1985.
Illinois sophomore punter Blake Hayes was a third-team All-Big Ten selection by the media (HM coaches), while senior linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips and sophomore defensive end Bobby Roundtree were both honorable mention honorees by the media.
Senior offensive lineman Nick Allegretti was announced as Illinois' Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree for the second straight year on Monday. In addition to playing nearly every snap over the last three seasons and serving as a team captain for the last two, Allegretti spearheads Illinois community service efforts and serves as the team's Uplifting Athletes chapter president, helping to raise over $88,000 for rare disease research and awareness at the last two Lift for Life events.