After Hazing Investigation, Northwestern Coach Fired

Pat Fitzgerald was first suspended, then terminated
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2023 4:35 PM CDT
Updated Jul 11, 2023 12:00 AM CDT
After Hazing Investigation, Northwestern Suspends Coach
Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald talks to reporters last July.   (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
UPDATE Jul 11, 2023 12:00 AM CDT

Within days of his suspension, Pat Fitzgerald has been fired as head coach of Northwestern University's football team amid an ongoing hazing investigation. "The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team," said the university's president in a statement announcing the termination Monday. "The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to learn what was happening. Either way, the culture in Northwestern Football, while incredible in some ways, was broken in others." Per USA Today, the statement also revealed that more former players had come forward alleging the hazing "was systemic dating back many years."

Jul 9, 2023 4:35 PM CDT

Northwestern University has suspended its football coach and announced changes in its athletic department after an outside investigation into hazing allegations. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald will be out for two weeks without pay, USA Today reports. "While the investigation did not uncover evidence pointing to specific misconduct by any individual football player or coach, participation in or knowledge of the hazing activities was widespread across football players," the school said Friday. Leaders of the football program had "significant opportunities to discover and report the hazing" and did not, the school said.

The hazing included forcing players to strip naked and sex acts, a former player told the Daily Northwestern. In one ritual, freshman football players who had made a mistake were taken to the locker room, pinned down by upperclassmen in masks, and dry-humped. "It's done under this smoke and mirror of, 'Oh, this is team bonding,' but no, this is sexual abuse," the former player told the campus newspaper. Another player backed up the account. They said that Fitzgerald would clap over his head when a player did something poorly in practice, a signal with a history that players took as an indication the coach endorsed hazing. "Everyone would just be looking at each other and be like 'bro, Fitz knows about this,'" the player said.

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The players on the current team released a statement Saturday night saying that the accusations were exaggerated and that their coach was not involved in any hazing. "I was very disappointed when I heard about the allegations," Fitzgerald said after being suspended. The changes announced by Northwestern include, per the Athletic:

  • Monitoring: Having someone who doesn't report to the football coaching staff stationed at the locker room.
  • Reporting: Creating an online reporting tool for student-athletes to post about potential hazing without being identified.
  • Training: Requiring coaches, staff members, and student-athletes to undergo anti-hazing instruction every year.
(More hazing stories.)

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