Northwestern fires football coach Pat Fitzgerald
After three days of upheaval, Pat Fitzgerald went from suspended to fired.
Northwestern announced Monday 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, 48, 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,’’ a statement from the university said.
In a statement released late Monday, Fitzgerald said: ‘‘Last Friday, Northwestern and I came to a mutual agreement regarding the appropriate resolution following the thorough investigation by [attorney Maggie] Hickey,’’ he said. ‘‘This agreement stipulated a two-week suspension.
‘‘Therefore, I was surprised when I learned that the president of Northwestern unilaterally revoked our agreement without any prior notification and subsequently terminated my employment.’’
Defensive coordinator David Braun is expected to be named the Wildcats’ coach, ESPN reported.
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.’’
Northwestern’s investigation, led by 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.’’ Parkins said the school did not speak with any players on the team during its investigation, which was prompted by a human-resources filing in November.
‘‘Our department’s annual review of all aspects of the Wildcats baseball program is ongoing,’’ a spokesperson for 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.