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The day after news broke that Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald had been suspended following an investigation into hazing allegations, a report from a campus newspaper detailed some of the accusations.
Some of the disturbing alleged hazing acts were sexual in nature. Additionally, one accuser even claimed that players believed Fitzgerald was aware of them.
The Daily Northwestern published a piece in which they spoke to an unnamed former player. He described — in graphic detail — some of the alleged hazing practices. His accounts were corroborated by another former player.
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it’s just absolutely egregious and vile and inhumane behavior,” he said.
Player Discussed Disturning Act Known As ‘Running’
The player described a practice allegedly known within the team as “running.”
This allegedly involved 8-10 upperclassmen donning “Purge-like” masks, then restraining and “dry-humping,” a victim in a dark locker room.
“It’s done under this smoke and mirror of ‘oh, this is team bonding,’ but no, this is sexual abuse,” the player said.
The ex-Wildcat said that this was used to punish players who made mistakes on the field in games or practice.
“It’s a shocking experience as a freshman to see your fellow freshman teammates get ran, but then you see everybody bystanding in the locker room,” the player said. “It’s just a really abrasive and barbaric culture that has permeated throughout that program for years on end now.”
The Daily Northwestern claimed to have obtained (but did not appear to publish) photos of whiteboards that read “Runsgiving” and “Shrek’s List.” These included lists of players’ names.
The players said that running was often concentrated around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. These times were given the nicknames “Runsgiving” and “Runmas.”
The player said that “running” victims were identified using what was known as “the Shrek clap.” This was when a player would clap their hands above a victim’s head. The Daily Northwestern indicated that they had obtained a video of a player performing a “Shrek clap” during a game.
Shockingly, this player claimed that Fitzgerald was known to perform this gesture during practice when players — typically freshmen — made mistakes. This was seen as an indication that he knew what was happening, which led to others taking part.
“Everyone would just be looking at each other and be like ‘bro, Fitz knows about this,’ because you wouldn’t take that action otherwise,” the player said. “Everyone joins in, because he’s the head coach.”
Running Wasn’t The Only Alleged Act Of Hazing
While running was the main accusation, it wasn’t the only thing the player says unfolded.
He claimed that freshmen were made to strip naked and bear-crawl or use exercise equipment to slingshot themself across the floor. In another alleged act — known as “the carwash” — players would stand at the entrance to the shower and spin while naked. This would force others wanting to use the shower to “basically (rub) up against a bare-naked man.”
They also alleged that the shower had been rigged with a hose, that was used to spray players and was “extremely painful.”
He also claimed to have seen a freshman quarterback forced to take a handoff from a freshman center while both players were naked.
The School Initiated An Independent Investigation
This player reported this information — which was corroborated by a second player that spoke to The Daily Northwestern – in 2022. This led the school to hire a law firm to perform an independent investigation.
The lead investigator was Maggie Hickey, the former inspector general of Illinois. The findings of this investigation were published in a press release. This release also contained a list of steps the school was taking to prevent this from happening in the future.
These included a two-week suspension for Fitzgerald. Additionally, it led to the permanent discontinuation of practices at the training camp facility “Camp Kenosha.”
Additionally, someone who does not report to the football team will be required to monitor the locker room. Coaches, staff members, and student-athletes will also undergo additional anti-hazing training.
“Hazing in any form is unacceptable and goes against our core values at Northwestern, where we strive to make the University a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students,” said Northwestern University President Michael Schill said in a statement.
“Our athletics programs are held to the highest standards, and in this case, we failed to meet them. I expect that today’s actions will prevent this from ever happening again.”
It will be interesting if there is further action taken toward Fitzgerald or the program now that these reports have been made public.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle