Following an inquiry into claims of hazing inside the Wildcats’ team, Northwestern University has suspended head football coach Pat Fitzgerald for two weeks without pay, the school said Friday.
According to an executive summary of the inquiry released by the university, the independent investigation, carried out by a former inspector general of Illinois, started in December to examine a complaint from an anonymous email address received at the conclusion of the 2022 season.
Fitzgerald and other coaching staff members were not aware of the hazing, according to the investigation’s findings, but “there had been opportunities for them to discover and report the hazing conduct,” the university stated in a news release.
The institution stated that although current and former athletes had different opinions about the behavior, the evidence mostly corroborated the whistleblower’s assertions.
According to the summary, the whistleblower claimed that football players forced teammates to take part in hazing rituals. These rituals were allegedly initiated at “Camp Kenosha” in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the team attended training camp, and usually took place in the locker room.
Fitzgerald, who is immediately suspended, said he was “disappointed” to hear about the hazing charges and added that he was not “aware” of any of the alleged behaviors.
Fitzgerald stated in a statement that Northwestern football takes pleasure in turning out great young men with character who are worthy of the program and our University, not simply athletes. “We have the highest expectations for our student-athletes and our program, and we’ll keep working to go above and beyond those expectations going forward.”
Maggie Hickey, a former state executive inspector general, oversaw the investigation, and her team discovered “evidence to corroborate claims made by an anonymous whistleblower regarding hazing activities and events,” the institution claimed. Hickey’s team also spoke with the whistleblower and conducted interviews with more than 50 current or former members of the football program.
The school will take a number of further initiatives in the future in response to the report’s conclusions, including ending practices at “Camp Kenosha.” The Evanston, Illinois-based institution will also need locker room supervision from “someone who doesn’t report to the football coaching staff,” according to the news release.
The university announced the creation of an online tool for reporting occurrences of probable hazing or hazing-related issues among student-athletes. Student-athletes, staff employees, and coaches all need to undergo an annual anti-hazing training course.
“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,” stated Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University. The greatest standards are expected of our athletics programs, and in this instance, we didn’t live up to them. I believe that what we did today will stop this from ever happening again.
Fitzgerald, 48, will be the Wildcats’ head coach for the next 18 seasons. Fitzgerald has led the program to four bowl victories since 2016, although the squad had a 1-11 record in 2018.
On September 3, 2023, the Wildcats will play their season opener at Rutgers University in New Jersey.