Northwestern Continues Probing Football Hazing Accusations Amidst Fitzgerald’s Suspension

by Michael Nguyen
Northwestern football hazing investigation

The future of Northwestern’s football program remains uncertain, even as fall practices loom only weeks away. This situation follows a six-month-long investigation into hazing allegations within the team and a subsequent two-week, unpaid suspension of Coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Significant opportunities have been noted to discover more about the issue. The Daily Northwestern, the next day, revealed a story in which a former player delineated specific episodes of hazing and sexual abuse. The story implied that Fitzgerald might have been aware of the hazing incidents.

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Michael Schill, Northwestern’s President, in an open letter to the university community, conceded that the investigation focused excessively on what Fitzgerald didn’t know, rather than what he should have been aware of. Schill added that he intended to consult with university leadership, the board of trustees, and faculty senate leaders to determine subsequent actions, potentially including further punishment for Fitzgerald and his staff.

Schill wrote, “As the head coach of one of our athletic programs, Coach Fitzgerald is responsible not only for what transpires within the program but also for preserving our institutional commitment to the student experience and our priority to ensure all students — undergraduate and graduate — can thrive during their time at Northwestern. His failure to uphold this commitment was not sufficiently considered when imposing a penalty.”

On Sunday, a university spokesperson declined to offer any updates on Schill’s plans or any discussions that might have taken place.

The university was first made aware of the hazing allegations in late 2022, with the complaint being investigated over six months, which included the testimony of the former player who initially reported the issue. The investigation’s report suggested that the allegations were “largely supported by the evidence” but failed to ascertain whether the coaching staff was aware of the incidents.

Along with Fitzgerald’s suspension, Northwestern announced a series of reforms including discontinuation of preseason football camps in Wisconsin; monitoring of the locker room by an external official; creation of an online tool for anonymous hazing reports; mandatory anti-hazing training for coaches, staff, and athletes; and formation of a working group to report on policy, culture, training, and enforcement.

“We respect the courage of the individuals who came forward to make us aware of the issue, and we vow to do our part to create a more positive environment moving forward,” stated Northwestern athletic director Derrick Gragg on Friday.

Northwestern isn’t the first school compelled to deal with hazing within its athletic programs. A month ago, two former New Mexico State basketball players agreed to an $8 million settlement after filing a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted by teammates.

Katey Stone, the women’s hockey coach from Harvard, announced her retirement following multiple allegations of verbal abuse, hazing, and pressure to return prematurely from injuries.

Fitzgerald, a Northwestern star in the 1990s and a College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2008, took over coaching duties at his alma mater in 2006 following the sudden passing of then-coach Randy Walker. Fitzgerald has guided the Wildcats to 110 wins over 17 seasons, with 10 bowl game appearances and five finishes in the final AP Top 25 poll.

Several current and former players came to Fitzgerald’s defense following the announcement of his suspension.

Ryan Hilinski, Wildcats quarterback, tweeted his support for the coach, as did former quarterback Trevor Semien, now with the Cincinnati Bengals. A letter circulated on social media, allegedly from “The ENTIRE Northwestern Football Team,” also expressed support for Fitzgerald.

The Wildcats, who had a 1-11 season last year, kick off the new season on Sept. 3 at Rutgers.

AP college football: https://bigbignews.net/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Northwestern football hazing investigation

What is the current status of the hazing allegations investigation at Northwestern?

The investigation into hazing allegations within Northwestern’s football team is ongoing. More than six months have passed since the investigation began, and it continues even after the announcement of a two-week unpaid suspension for Coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Why was Coach Pat Fitzgerald suspended?

Coach Pat Fitzgerald was suspended for two weeks without pay as part of the initial response to the hazing allegations within the Northwestern football team. Reports suggested that he might have been aware of the hazing incidents.

What steps is Northwestern taking in response to the hazing allegations?

In response to the allegations, Northwestern is discontinuing preseason football camps in Wisconsin, monitoring the locker room by an external official, creating an online tool for anonymous hazing reports, mandating anti-hazing training for coaches, staff, and athletes, and forming a working group to report on policy, culture, training, and enforcement.

What was the reaction of Northwestern’s players to Coach Fitzgerald’s suspension?

Several current and former players voiced their support for Coach Fitzgerald following the announcement of his suspension. They expressed respect and admiration for Fitzgerald, highlighting his integrity and commitment to the team.

When will Northwestern’s football team begin their new season?

The Northwestern Wildcats, coming off a 1-11 season last year, are set to start the new season on Sept. 3 with a game against Rutgers.

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WildcatFan76 July 10, 2023 - 1:58 pm

as a longtime Northwestern fan I’m devastated. But we need to put player safety first, no matter what

Maria_2023 July 10, 2023 - 3:33 pm

It’s a shame to see such things in college sports… hope the University takes the right action!

JeremyInChicago July 11, 2023 - 3:40 am

investigations are ongoing right? let’s not judge fitzgerald until everything is clear and facts are out there

Josh_M July 11, 2023 - 5:19 am

wow thats pretty heavy stuff… hope they can get to the bottom of this situation and keep the kids safe


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