Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald fired; players speak on hazing allegations

The investigation revealed that 'the hazing included forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature.'

ByKevin Dotson and Omar Jimenez, CNN, CNNWire
Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Northwestern fans, Evanston locals react to Pat Fitzgerald's firing
Northwestern football fans and Evanston, IL locals react to the firing of Pat Fitzgerald amid a hazing investigation.

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern University fired longtime head football coach Pat Fitzgerald, the school announced Monday. The move comes after allegations of hazing within the Wildcats football program.

The decision was effective immediately, university president Michael Schill said in a letter to the Northwestern community.

"The decision comes after a difficult and complex evaluation of my original discipline decision imposed last week on Coach Fitzgerald for his failure to know and prevent significant hazing in the football program," Schill said.

CNN has reached out to Fitzgerald's representative for comment. Fitzgerald, who was initially suspended Friday for two weeks without pay, has said previously he was not aware of the alleged hazing.

Pat Fitzgerald released a statement to ESPN after being fired amid a Northwestern hazing probe.

Fitzgerald addressed the players in a meeting Monday night to say goodbye, according to a university employee familiar with the situation.

Schill said he discussed the situation with Fitzgerald, university leaders, and current and former students in the last few days. People sent phone messages and emails, too.

"I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails describing how he has transformed the lives of current and former student-athletes," Schill's letter says. "However, as much as Coach Fitzgerald has meant to our institution and our student-athletes, we have an obligation - in fact a responsibility - to live by our values, even when it means making difficult and painful decisions such as this one. We must move forward."

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald has been fired amid an ongoing investigation into widespread hazing on the Wildcats team.

The head coach is ultimately responsible for a team's culture, according to Schill.

A former Illinois inspector general began conducting the independent investigation in December after an anonymous email address sent a complaint at the end of the 2022 season, according to an executive summary of the investigation made public by the university.

The investigation revealed 11 players, past and present, said hazing was ongoing in the program, Schill said.

"The hazing included forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature, in clear violation of Northwestern policies and values," Schill wrote. "I am grateful that - to my knowledge - no student suffered physical injury as a result of these behaviors."

But, he added, the investigator didn't find "any credible evidence that Coach Fitzgerald himself knew about it."

Fitzgerald, who was head coach for 17 seasons, said in a statement Friday he was "disappointed" to learn of the hazing allegations.

"Northwestern football prides itself on producing not just athletes, but fine young men with character befitting the program and our University," Fitzgerald said. "We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward."

READ MORE: Ex-Northwestern player says coach Pat Fitzgerald 'failed' by not stopping hazing

A former player described the alleged hazing incidents within the Wildcats program as "egregious and vile and inhumane behavior," according to an article published Saturday by Northwestern's student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. A second anonymous player confirmed the practices to the newspaper.

The university's football team has pushed back on the allegations, which it said are "exaggerated and twisted into lies" in a letter to the community on Saturday. The team also said that Fitzgerald was unaware and not involved in the alleged incidents.

Schill said there will be announcements about the team's leadership in the coming days.

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