Northwestern fire coach Pat Fitzgerald amid fallout from an adverse investigation

Northwestern fired head football coach Pat Fitzgerald amid fallout from the university’s investigation into allegations of hazing within the football program, university president Michael Schell said in a letter to the Northwestern community Monday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Fitzgerald was initially suspended for two weeks after a summary of the investigation’s findings was published on Friday.
  • On Saturday, Schell said in a statement that he “may have misjudged the appropriate punishment” for Fitzgerald. Northwestern Daily She reported new details about the hazing allegations earlier that day.
  • On Monday, Schell wrote that the decision to relieve Fitzgerald of his duties came “after a difficult and complex assessment of the original discipline I imposed last week on Coach Fitzgerald for his failure to recognize and prevent significant risks in the football program.”
  • Schell said the lead will be announced for the next football season in the coming days. Northwestern is expected to name defensive coordinator David Brown as its football program coordinator, according to multiple reports.
  • Need a complete understanding of what’s happening at Northwestern? Here is a schedule of events.

What did Shell say?

Schell wrote Monday that over the past 72 hours, he has spent “a great deal of time in reflection and in discussions with the people who love our university—the president and members of our Board of Trustees, faculty leadership, students and alumni, and Coach Fitzgerald himself.”

“Although I value my feedback and take it into account in making my decision,” Schell wrote, “the decision to stop Coach Fitzgerald was mine alone, as was the decision to part with him.”

As Schell stated in the letter, “While the report of the independent investigation will remain confidential, it is important for our community to know the facts.”

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He wrote that during the investigation, 11 current or former Northwestern football players acknowledged that hazing was ongoing in the football program, and “In today’s new media reports, more former Northwestern student-athletes confirmed that hazing was systematic back Its history goes back to many years.”

The hazing, Schell said, included “forced sharing, nudity, and sexual acts of a degrading nature, in clear violation of Northwest policies and values.”

He wrote, “I am grateful – as far as I know – that no student has ever suffered physical injury as a result of these behaviors.” “While some student-athletes believed hazing was a joke and not harmful, others saw it as causing significant harm with long-term consequences.”

In addition, Schell writes that the hazing “was known by many in the programme, although the investigator failed to find any credible evidence that Coach Fitzgerald himself knew about it” and that Schell had recently learned of many details of the independent investigation, He spoke with the complainant and his parents.

“A technical director is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team,” Schell wrote. “The hazing that we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program, which gave Coach Fitzgerald the opportunity to find out what was going on.

“Either way, the culture at Northwestern Football, while amazing in some ways, was shattering in others.”

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What Fitzgerald said

Fitzgerald wrote in a statement Monday that he and Schell had reached “mutual agreement as to the appropriate resolution” of the investigation’s findings. Fitzgerald said he was “surprised” to learn that Schell had “unilaterally canceled our agreement without any prior notice, and thus terminated my employment”.

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“In view of this unexpected turn of events, I have entrusted my agent, Brian Harlan, and legal counsel, Dan Webb of Winston & Strawn LLP, to take the necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law,” he wrote.

As Fitzgerald, a former Wildcat player, said, “I wholeheartedly dedicate myself to looking after our players, not only as athletes but also as exemplary students and members of the community.”

Attorney Maggie Hickey, Fitzgerald wrote, “conducted a thorough, months-long investigation into the allegations which led to my termination.”

“Her investigation reaffirmed what I have always done – that I had absolutely no knowledge of any form of hazing within the Northwestern football program,” the statement said.

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background story

In its summary of the investigation’s findings released Friday, Northwestern said “participation in, or knowledge of, hazing activities was widespread among football players,” but the investigation found no evidence pointing to misconduct by a specific football player or coach. In addition, investigators found “insufficient evidence” that the coaching staff knew about the hazing. However, investigators discovered that there were high opportunities for hazing to be discovered and reported.

A day later, Schell reversed his decision to issue Fitzgerald a two-week suspension.

“In determining the appropriate punishment for the coach, I placed too much emphasis on what the report concluded he did not know and not enough on what he should have known,” Schell said in a letter to the Northwestern community.

“As the head coach for one of our athletics programs, Coach Fitzgerald is not only responsible for what happens within the program, but must also take great care in upholding our institutional commitment to the student experience and our priority to ensuring all students—undergraduate and graduate—can thrive during their time at Northwestern University. Western. He clearly failed to maintain that commitment, and I failed to adequately consider that failure to impose a penalty.”

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The abstract revealed that the complainant’s allegations included footballers pressuring team members to take part in hazing activities, often in the dressing room. According to the complainant, the hazing may have started at Camp Kenosha in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the team used to hold training camp.

the former player told the Daily Northwestern The hazing included forced sexual acts.

Schell said he learned the complainant’s name, spoke to his family and apologized for what he had been through.

“I am moved by what I have heard from his family and the effect the hazing has on their son. In the coming days, I will be communicating with the university leadership, including the Board of Trustees as well as the Senate leadership, and will keep you posted on any developments as I assess future steps,” Schell wrote.

Fitzgerald was preparing to enter his 18th season at the helm of the program after being hired in 2006 following the sudden death of former head coach Randy Walker. He compiled a 110-101 record over his 17-year tenure and a 5-5 mark in 10 Bow games. The Wildcats finished last season 1-11, the lowest win total for the program since 1989.

Northwestern opens the 2023 season at Rutgers on Sept. 3.

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(Photo: Jeff Hansch/USA Today)

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