Northwestern Fires Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald

From a Chicago Sun-Times story by Jeff Agrest headlined “Northwestern fires football coach Pat Fitzgerald”:

After three days of upheaval, Pat Fitzgerald went from suspended to fired.

Northwestern announced that Fitzgerald, the school’s winningest football coach, was out after an investigation into hazing in the program.

On Friday, university president Michael Schill suspended Fitzgerald for two weeks without pay. Late Saturday, after specifics of the hazing activities became public, Schill said he ‘‘may have erred’’ with the punishment.

‘‘Northwestern President Michael Schill informed head football coach Pat Fitzgerald that he has been relieved of his duties,’’ the university said.

Defensive coordinator David Braun is expected to be named the Wildcats’ coach.

The firing caps a rapid fall for Fitzgerald, who went 110-101 in 17 seasons at Northwestern, his alma mater. He led the Wildcats to Big Ten West titles in 2018 and 2020, plus five bowl victories. But the team is coming off a 1-11 season, its worst since the 1989 team went 0-11. He had eight years left on a 10-year contract reportedly worth $57 million.

Schill’s message to the Northwestern community included: ‘‘Since Friday, I have kept going back to what we should reasonably expect from our head coaches, our faculty and our campus leaders. And that is what led me to make this decision. The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team. 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.’’

Northwestern’s investigation, led by attorney Maggie Hickey of the law firm ArentFox Schiff, didn’t find ‘‘sufficient’’ evidence Fitzgerald knew about the hazing, but it found ‘‘significant opportunities’’ to find out. Fitzgerald said he was ‘‘very disappointed’’ to learn about the hazing.

Then the Daily Northwestern student newspaper published a story Saturday detailing hazing activities, which involved coerced sexual acts and a belief that Fitzgerald might have known. A former player reported his experiences to the school in November, and another player corroborated them.

Earlier Monday, the Daily reported that three former players described a ‘‘culture of enabling racism’’ during their time at the school in the late 2000s, in addition to corroborating some hazing allegations. A Northwestern spokesperson told the Daily that the school was not aware of the allegations of racism.

And it wasn’t just the football program under scrutiny. Also Monday, The Score afternoon co-host Danny Parkins reported on his show that Northwestern baseball coach Jim Foster ‘‘was the subject of an HR investigation that found him to have violated university policy by engaging in bullying and abusive behavior.’’

‘‘Our department’s annual review of all aspects of the Wildcats baseball program is ongoing,’’ the athletic department said. ‘‘The well-being of our student-athletes remains Northwestern’s top priority.’’

The school is handling two scandals while it continues to push for a new stadium on the site of Ryan Field that many neighborhood residents oppose.

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