Northwestern University is suspending a head coach after a months-long investigation into hazing allegations.
Pat Fitzgerald, head coach for Northwestern’s Wildcats football team, has been suspended for 2 weeks without pay following a hazing probe. The investigation began in earnest in January, after allegations of hazing came to the attention of school officials via a whistleblower in November. The hazing rituals in question were claimed to have taken place in the locker rooms and, possibly, at an off-campus training camp held in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Initially, Fitzgerald issued a statement saying “Northwestern football prides itself on producing not just athletes, but fine young men with character befitting the program and our University. We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward.”
The university interviewed the complainant in December; and launched into an investigation via the ArentFox Schiff LLP firm, led by attorney Maggie Hickey. More than 50 people currently or formerly involved with the Wildcats were also interviewed in the investigation.
The detailed account of these apparent hazing practices has not been divulged to the public. However, the whistleblower relayed that football players were pressuring fellow team members to participate in these hazing practices; and although the investigation did not return sufficient evidence that coaching staff were privy to these egregious acts, the lack of proper monitoring (as well as the widespread awareness of these acts across the entire team) proved enough to levy disciplinary action against coach Fitzgerald.
Besides Fitzgerald’s suspension, the university went forward with a number of reforms, including: discontinuing all off-campus training camps; assigning a monitor to the locker rooms who does not report to the coaching staff; and creating an online tool in which athletes can anonymously report hazing and other concerns involving staff and peers.
University President Michael Schill issued a statement concerning the incident: “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. 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.”