Northwestern University on Monday fired Pat Fitzgerald, its longtime head football coach, after an investigation found his players engaged in widespread hazing, including forced nudity and sexual acts.
His firing came three days after the university announced that Fitzgerald, who had been the Wildcats’ coach since 2006, would be suspended for two weeks without pay after an investigation found credible allegations of hazing.
said Michael Schell, president of Northwestern in the current situation that the decision to fire Fitzgerald, 48, came “after a difficult and complex assessment” of his previous discipline and after discussions with the Board of Trustees, students, alumni, and Fitzgerald.
“The decision to suspend Coach Fitzgerald was originally mine and mine, and so was the decision to part with him,” Schell said.
The announcement of the firing came next The Daily Northwestern reported On Saturday, a player, who requested anonymity from the newspaper, accused the players of essentially punishing the freshmen in a sexual act that involved nearly 10 teammates restraining a younger player. As reported by the Daily Northwestern on Monday Three former football players said there was a culture of racism in the football program.
Fitzgerald, a Northwestern alumnus who played linebacker as a college freshman, could not be immediately reached for comment Monday night.
University investigation, conducted by Maggie Hickey of the law firm ArentFox Schiff, was claimed by an anonymous student-athlete complaint in November 2022 and lasted six months. Schell said the investigation found no evidence that Fitzgerald knew about the harassment — even though it was “known to many in the programme.”
Some players “thought the hazing was a joke rather than harmful,” but others said it caused “significant harm with long-term consequences,” according to the law firm’s investigation.
To the best of his knowledge, “no student has ever suffered physical injury as a result of these behaviors,” Schell said.
However, he said the head coach was responsible for the team’s culture, and the investigation found that hazing was “widespread and clearly no secret within the program, which afforded Coach Fitzgerald the opportunity to see what was going on.”
Fitzgerald has been a pillar of the university’s football program, from his playing linebacker days when he helped the team reach the Rose Bowl, to his rise through the coaching ranks, and eventually being named 2018 Coach of the Year. He won five bowl games and had a 110-101 record as coach. key to the team. Last season, Northwestern went 1-11.