(CTN News) – The Northwestern University football team’s head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, has been relieved following an investigation into allegations of hazing. The university said there was no “sufficient” evidence that coaches knew about the misconduct, but Pat Fitzgerald “should have known.”
Upon reviewing the investigation’s executive summary, University President Michael Schill initially suspended Fitzgerald without pay for two weeks.
On reflection, Schill said in a letter to the community on Saturday, “I believe I may have erred in weighing the appropriate sanctions for Coach Pat Fitzgerald.”
In another letter published on Monday, Schill announced that he had decided to part ways with Fitzgerald after spending the weekend in discussion with university leaders, students, alumni, and Fitzgerald himself.
Schill was weighing his options when the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, published an article detailing hazing in the program. Several players confirmed the hazing incidents.
The hazing we investigated was widespread and evidently not a secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to learn what was going on,” Schill wrote. While Northwestern Football’s culture was incredible in some ways, it was broken in others.
In a statement, Pat Fitzgerald said the university investigation confirms what he has always maintained – I was unaware of any form of hazing at Northwestern.
The report will not be made public due to its confidentiality, Schill said. Some of the findings were summarized by the president, however.
According to them:
The program has been accused of hazing by 11 current and former players.
“Forced participation, nudity, and sexualized acts of a degrading nature” were part of the hazing.
The hazing has not caused any physical injuries to students
Several players felt that the hazing rituals were in jest, while others were harmful and had long-term consequences.
In the program, hazing practices were well-known, but Pat Fitzgerald was not aware of them.
As a result of the hazing report, the university has also implemented a slew of changes.
A new online reporting system will be created for student athletes to anonymously report incidents; practices will no longer take place at “Camp Kenosha” in Wisconsin, where some of the hazing incidents may have started; all coaches, staff and athletes will receive anti-hazing training; a person who does not report to the coaching staff will monitor the football locker room.
An anonymous email was received by the university at the end of November 2022 from a former football player alleging hazing.
To investigate the allegations, Northwestern hired Maggie Hickey, an internal investigator with Arent Fox Schiff and a former Illinois inspector general.
The summary says Hickey’s team interviewed more than 50 football program employees and analyzed “hundreds of thousands of emails” and player survey data going back to 2014.
In the investigation, no specific players or coaching staff were found to be involved in misconduct. However, it did reveal that most players either participated in or were aware of hazing practices.
According to the investigation summary, the coaches had “significant opportunities” to discover and report the hazing, even if there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest they knew it was happening.
Former Wildcat player Pat Fitzgerald, 48, is a Sports Illustrated-Defensive Player of the Year and College Football Hall of Famer. Recruiting and secondary defensive coach at Northwestern since 2001. After Randy Walker, his predecessor, died on June 29, 2006, Fitzgerald became head coach in July 2004.
During his 17 years as head coach of Wildcat football, Fitzgerald won five bowl games and led the team to 10 bowl games. Moreover, ESPN says Fitzgerald has won the most games at the university.