Northwestern fires Fitzgerald amid hazing scandal
Published 7:42 pm Monday, July 10, 2023
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Northwestern has fired coach Pat Fitzgerald amid a hazing scandal that called into question his leadership of the program and damaged the university’s reputation after it mishandled its response to the allegations.
Fitzgerald’s dismissal on Monday completed a rapid fall from grace for the former Northwestern linebacker. The 48-year-old Fitzgerald had been firmly entrenched at his alma mater, an annual fixture on any list of college coaches with the most job security.
“The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team,” Northwestern President Michael Schill said in an open letter. “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.”
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Fitzgerald began a two-week suspension on Friday after the school said an investigation by a law firm did not find “sufficient” evidence that the coaching staff knew about ongoing hazing — though there were “significant opportunities” to find out about it.
The Daily Northwestern then published a story on Saturday detailing allegations from a former player who described specific instances of hazing and sexual abuse. The report also indicated that Fitzgerald “may have known that hazing took place.”
That led Schill to write an open letter to the university community in which he acknowledged focusing “too much on what the report concluded (Fitzgerald) didn’t know and not enough on what he should have known.” Schill went on to say that he planned to speak with university leadership, members of the board of trustees and leaders of the faculty senate to determine his next steps.
Schill was the president of the University of Oregon before taking over Northwestern in September. He also teaches at Northwestern’s law school.