Northwestern has relieved head coach Pat Fitzgerald of his duties, the school announced Monday.
“The decision comes after a difficult and complex evaluation of my original discipline decision imposed last week on coach Fitzgerald for his failure to know and prevent significant hazing in the football program,” school president Michael Schill said in a statement.
Fitzgerald was initially suspended two weeks without pay Friday following the conclusion of an investigation into hazing allegations on the football team.
After beginning its investigation into the allegations in December 2022, Northwestern said Friday that it was able to corroborate the claims “made by an anonymous whistleblower.” However, the school said it couldn’t find “sufficient” evidence that the coaching staff knew about hazing activities despite there being opportunities to discover them.
On Saturday, a former player made additional hazing allegations to The Daily Northwestern. The allegations included coerced sexual acts. The anonymous player also added that Fitzgerald may have known about the incidents.
This resulted in Schill admitting in a letter Saturday that he may have “erred in weighing the appropriate sanction” for Fitzgerald. He also noted he initially “focused too much on what the report concluded (Fitzgerald) didn’t know and not enough on what he should have known.”
Schill revealed more details of the investigation Monday following Fitzgerald’s termination, including that 11 current or former players “acknowledged” that hazing has been going on within the football program.
“The hazing included forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature, in clear violation of Northwestern policies and values,” Schill added. “I am grateful that – to my knowledge – no student suffered physical injury as a result of these behaviors.”
He added: “While some student-athletes believed the hazing was in jest and not harmful, others viewed it as causing significant harm with long-term consequences.”
Schill explained that the decision to fire Fitzgerald boiled to the head coach’s responsibility over the environment surrounding the football team.
“The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team,” Schill noted. “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.”
In addition to Fitzgerald’s initial punishment, Northwestern also announced Friday a ban on training camps held in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the alleged hazing activities may have started.
The school will also appoint an individual – who won’t report to the football staff – to monitor the locker room. Additionally, the program will implement an anonymous anti-hazing reporting system, as well as education programs for members of the program.
Defensive coordinator David Braun is expected to be named the acting head coach following Fitzgerald’s dismissal, sources told ESPN’s Pete Thamel. Braun joined Northwestern earlier this year after serving as North Dakota State’s defensive coordinator since 2019.
Fitzgerald had held the Wildcats’ head coaching job since 2006. He’d put together a 110-101 record overall. Northwestern went 1-11 in 2022.
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