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Pat Fitzgerald has been fired by Northwestern following an investigation into hazing inside the football program.
The question I posed on Monday morning was how long it would take the school to further investigate some of the allegations that were detailed this past weekend. After a weekend full of questionable decisions and explosive allegations, President Michael Schill found himself at a crossroads just one year into the job.
On Monday night, the decision had been made, Fitzgerald had to go. The Wildcats head coach was suspended for two weeks last Friday. Fitzgerald had been the head coach at Northwestern for seventeen years, taking over at his alma mater in 2006.
In a release by the university, President Michael Schill had this to say about the investigation into Pat Fitzgerald.
“During the investigation, eleven current or former football student-athletes acknowledged that hazing has been ongoing within the football program. In new media reporting today, still more former Northwestern football student-athletes confirmed that hazing was systemic dating back many years. This has never been about one former student-athlete and his motives; this is much bigger than that.”
Also in his statement, Michael Schill acknowledged that his decision will not be universally accepted, but that there has been significant damage done to the school.
“I recognize that my decision will not be universally applauded, and there will be those in our community who may vehemently disagree with it. Ultimately, I am charged with acting in the best interests of the entire University, and this decision is reflective of that. The damage done to our institution is significant, as is the harm to some of our students.”
David Braun is the most likely candidate to be the acting head coach according to sources. Braun is currently Northwestern’s defensive coordinator.
This past January, Northwestern launched an investigation, led by outside attorney’s, into the football program for hazing allegations. In their release just three days ago, the school announced that the investigation “Did not discover sufficient evidence to believe that the coaching staff knew about the ongoing hazing conduct.”
The allegations of hazing were “largely supported by the evidence” that was found by the lawfirm of ArentFox Schiff. The firm could not prove that the assistant coaches and Fitzgerald were knowledgeable of the hazing. Unfortunately the summary left us with more questions than answers at the time. President Michael Schill’s statement on Monday night did provide answers into how many current or former Wildcats said hazing had occurred.
Schill also released a statement on Saturday night that detailed his decision to further examine the job status of Fitzgerald, admitting he “may have erred in weighing the appropriate sanction”.
Pat Fitzgerald Responds To Firing By Northwestern
Late Monday night, former Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald released a statement through his attorney’s, saying he was surprised that the school revoked their agreement on two-week suspension, noting he is taking the steps to protect his rights within the law.
“Attorney Maggie Hickey conducted a thorough investigation spanning several months into the allegations that led to my termination. Her investigation reaffirmed what I have always maintained-that I had no knowledge whatsoever of any form of hazing within the Northwestern football program,” Fitzgerald noted.
Also, Fitzgerald mentioned that “the overwhelming majority of players we coached, 99% to be precise, have provided positive feedback that affirms our efforts”.
In terms on the agreement that he came to with President Schill on the two-week suspension, Fitzgerald said he had no prior notification the agreement was revoked, which led to his firing.
“Last Friday, Northwestern and I came to a mutual agreement regarding the appropriate resolution following the thorough investigation conducted by Ms. Hickey. This agreement stipulated a two-week suspension. Therefore, I was surprised the I learned that the president of Northwestern unilaterally revoked our agreement without any prior notification and subsequently terminated my employment.”
Now, the former Wildcats coach has enlisted legal counsel to “take the necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law”.
Northwestern President Says Hazing Was Widespread, Not A Secret
In a detailed report written by ‘The Daily Northwestern’ there are allegations of players being ‘dry-humped by teammates’ in a dark room. Many other allegations of hazing were documented in the report. That sparked current players to write a letter that was released to the public on Saturday night, but in the end, it did not help Fitzgerald retain his job.
The biggest question now is why did the school come to this conclusion on Monday evening, not after they released the summary of the investigation on Friday night. Well, it comes down to the school also not doing its due diligence when it comes to the report, while also thinking most of these allegations would not see the light of day.
President Michael Schill pointed towards the widespread hazing that was obviously not a secret within the football program.
“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.”
There should be a major concern about the judgement of president Michael Schill and decision makers on campus. It shouldn’t have taken the student newspaper printing these allegations for the school to make the right decision and stand by it. Now, Northwestern looks even worse by thinking a two-week suspension was the right call last Friday, but firing Fitzgerald was the final move on Monday night.
“Ultimately, the decision to originally suspend Coach Fitzgerald was mine and mine alone, as is the decision to part ways with him,” President Schill said in his statement.
In his first year on the job, president Michael Schill is now dealing with a major problem in the football program, while also launching a probe into the baseball program for ‘abusive behavior’ by head coach Jim Foster.
Now, we wait to see what happens with current players on the roster and the transfer portal. This is a very bad time for players who will try to enter the portal, with under a month until fall camp opens. Unfortunately for the players, they don’t have much time to make any type of decision.