Northwestern players opt to forgo Big Ten media days

Published 8:24 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Northwestern will not have any players at the Big Ten’s annual media days this week after the three who were scheduled to attend opted Tuesday to back out because of hazing scandals that have engulfed the school.

Linebacker Bryce Gallagher, defensive back Rod Heard II and receiver Bryce Kirtz said in a statement they made the “very difficult” decision after consulting with interim coach David Braun, their parents and teammates.

“Given the recent events involving the Northwestern football program, we did not want our participation to be dominated by the hazing issue and steal the focus away from football and the upcoming season,” they said.

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Each school usually sends three players and the head coach to the two-day event to field questions about the upcoming season from reporters. Gallagher, Heard and Kirtz were to be available on Wednesday. Braun is still scheduled to address the media.

“The decision from our players to forgo Big Ten Media Day was entirely theirs, and they approached it with a great deal of maturity and thoughtfulness,” Braun said in a statement. “I’m fully supportive of both their reasoning and the decision itself, and I look forward to attending the event.”

Northwestern is facing multiple lawsuits from male and female athletes, including one by former quarterback Lloyd Yates, alleging hazing by teammates that includes sexual abuse. The 52-page complaint also says coaches made racially charged comments to players of color.

Northwestern fired longtime fired football coach Pat Fitzgerald on July 10. Baseball coach Jim Foster was let go three days later amid misconduct allegations.

Braun was elevated to interim coach six months after he was hired as the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator. He spent the previous four seasons in the same position at North Dakota State, where he helped lead the Bison to FCS national championships in 2019 and 2021.