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Lawsuits Filed. Coaches Fired. Players Speak Out. Northwestern Athletics in the Midst of a Hazing Scandal.
The Northwestern Football program has found itself in the middle of a major scandal surrounding claims of hazing, sexual harassment and oversight by the coaching staff and the entire athletic department.
In January of 2023, it was announced that an individual investigator, Maggie Hickey, would be leading the investigation of a hazing claim that was made anonymously back in November. This hazing claim led to the investigation of the football program.
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On July 7, Northwestern announced that head football coach, Pat Fitzgerald would be suspended two weeks without pay while the investigation was happening. Due to the suspension of Fitzgerald, the football team had to cease their spring training that was happening at “Camp Kenosha,” an off-site camp in WI. Also, someone who doesn't have to report to the coaching staff would have to be present in the locker room as a way to prevent hazing, or to report any hazing that was taking place in the locker room.
Courtesy of: Peter Warren
During the investigation, it concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to say that the coaches and staff had known about or were complicit in the hazing that was supposedly taking place. Although it was concluded that they didn't know there were opportunities for them to discover what was taking place. Therefore Fitzgerald was only given a two-week suspension. As a result, coaches and players will also have to participate in anti-hazing training.
Fitzgerald had told ESPN that he had “no knowledge whatsoever of any form of hazing within the Northwestern football program." In a video interview from 2014, Fitzgerald stated that football had zero tolerance for hazing.
A lawsuit had been filed against Fitzgerald, along with Northwestern Leaders. In the lawsuit, it stated that the hazing activities were, "assaultive, illegal, and often sexual in nature." The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a player that played at Northwestern from 2018-22.
After the allegations of the hazing were made, people affiliated with the football program were interviewed, and over a thousand emails had been sent out to collect data. The data showed no misconduct by any player or coach.
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Many current and former players have all come to Fitzgerald's defense. An open letter from several players was published saying Fitzgerald had no knowledge and no part in the allegations that were being made. In the letter it says, “Northwestern Football players DO NOT tolerate hazing. We want to reiterate that as representatives of the Northwestern Football program, we do not tolerate hazing in any form.” It also says, “Hazing goes against our values of respect, integrity, and personal growth. We are committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes the well-being and development of every individual on our team.”
After 17 seasons as head football coach Fitzgerald had been officially fired on Monday, July 10. David Braun will step in as interim head football coach.
Courtesy of: Sean Rayford
While the football team is under fire and investigation for the hazing allegations, head baseball coach Jim Foster was fired just days after the hazing scandal. While there aren't any details provided for why Foster was let go, Athletic Director Derrick Gragg said many factors were taken into consideration. Assistant coach, Brian Anderson, will step into the interim head coach position. The Chicago Tribune reported that Foster had allegedly led a toxic culture within his baseball program.
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"Nothing will ever be more important to Northwestern than providing its students a place that allows them to develop in the classroom, in the community, and in competition at the absolute highest level, and building a culture which allows our staff to thrive," Gragg said.
"As the Director of Athletics, I take ownership of our head coaching hires and we will share our next steps as they unfold," he added.
To stay informed on what continues to happen in the Northwestern Athletic Department, I advise following along with Adam Rittenberg's (@ESPNRittenberg) Twitter updates on the matters at hand.