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Northwestern Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald Dismissed Following Hazing Allegations

Northwestern fires coach Pat Fitzgerald amid hazing scandal and mishandling.

Northwestern University has fired coach Pat Fitzgerald following a hazing scandal that has raised concerns about his leadership and tarnished the reputation of the university. The decision comes after the university mishandled its response to the allegations, leading to damage to the institution's image.

Fitzgerald, a former Northwestern linebacker, had been a prominent figure in college coaching, known for his long tenure and job security. However, his dismissal marks a swift downfall from grace.

In an open letter to the university community, Northwestern President Michael Schill emphasized that the head coach is ultimately responsible for the team's culture. The investigation into the hazing revealed that it was widespread and not a secret within the program, suggesting that Fitzgerald had the opportunity to address the issue. Schill acknowledged that while Northwestern Football had its strengths, there were also significant flaws in its culture.

During his 17 seasons as head coach, Fitzgerald achieved a record of 110-101 and led the Wildcats to Big Ten West championships in 2018 and 2020, as well as five bowl victories. However, the team's performance declined in the last two seasons, with a 4-20 record.

Schill stated that Athletic Director Derrick Gragg will announce the leadership for the upcoming football season in the next few days, with the first game scheduled for September 3 against Rutgers.

The decision to fire Fitzgerald may not be universally supported, but Schill emphasized that he had to act in the best interests of the entire university. The damage caused to the institution and the harm inflicted on some students were significant factors in the decision-making process.

Prior to his dismissal, Fitzgerald had been serving a two-week suspension. The investigation conducted by a law firm did not find sufficient evidence that the coaching staff knew about the hazing, although there were opportunities to discover it.

Schill confirmed that the report from ArentFox Schiff would remain confidential. However, he revealed that 11 current or former players acknowledged the hazing during the investigation. The hazing involved forced participation, nudity, and sexualized acts, which violated Northwestern policies and values.

The suspension of Fitzgerald came after The Daily Northwestern published an article detailing allegations of hazing and sexual abuse from a former player. The report suggested that Fitzgerald may have been aware of the hazing incidents.

Schill admitted that the focus had been on what Fitzgerald didn't know rather than what he should have known. He expressed his intention to consult with university leadership, board members, and faculty senate leaders to determine the next steps.

Schill learned many of the investigation's details recently because it was confidential. He spoke with the complainant and their parents to gain a better understanding of the situation.

Fitzgerald, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2008, was appointed as head coach of his alma mater in 2006 following the death of then-coach Randy Walker.

Despite the controversy, many current and former players have come to Fitzgerald's defense. Quarterback Ryan Hilinski praised Fitzgerald for his support and commitment to the team's well-being and development.

A letter circulated on social media, signed by "The ENTIRE Northwestern Football Team," expressed support for Fitzgerald's unwavering dedication to the team throughout his tenure.

The firing of Pat Fitzgerald marks a significant moment in Northwestern University's history, as the institution grapples with the aftermath of a hazing scandal. The university community awaits the announcement of the new leadership for the football program, hoping for a fresh start and a commitment to a positive and inclusive team culture.

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