More than 1,000 former student-athletes at Northwestern University, including some 250 football alumni, have signed an open letter in which they “strongly condemn hazing,” also says that “these allegations do not define or represent the overall athletics culture at Northwestern.”
NU faces more than a dozen lawsuits from ex-football players, as well as litigation from a former volleyball athlete, a former lacrosse player, and three former staff members in the baseball program, all alleging some sort of improper behavior or lack of supervision.
In a statement accompanying the athletes’ letter, tennis alum Alexis Prousis says that for those who represented NU in sports over the years, “the pain is acute” when learning of the hazing and other allegations.
“We all share the anger, the sadness, and the frustration … and support the victims during their healing and recovery,” Prousis adds.
The letter itself is titled “Support Northwestern Athletics, An Open Letter from Northwestern Student-Athlete Alums,” and includes players from nearly 20 men’s and women’s sports going back several decades, who “strongly endorse” the efforts to investigate the allegations.
One of those who signed, John Borovicka, played baseball in the early 1990s. Borovicka tells Evanston Now that “we wanted to make sure” that it’s also acknowledged that “a lot of us had positive experiences” as Northwestern student-athletes.
Michelle Butts was on the softball team from 2007-2011, and also signed the letter. Butts says she, too, wants to share all the good things NU sports meant to her.
Butts says “of course I do not condone any hazing, but as a Black woman I had a very positive experience [as an NU athlete] which ultimately changed my life.”
The open letter says the opportunity to take part in top-level academics and athletics at a place like Northwestern was “unique and deeply valued … and were the building blocks for each of our lives after graduation.”
“We strongly affirm the positive experiences we had at Northwestern, and,” the letter says, “if offered we would do it all over again.”
The unfolding hazing scandal cost head football coach Pat Fitzgerald his job. Baseball coach Jim Foster was also let go after allegations of bullying.
Borovicka, who played baseball at NU some time ago, says he stays in touch with the program, and was not surprised at Foster’s dismissal.
“We saw it coming because of issues and communications problems with the coach,” he says.
However, he also believes that the outside review of NU sports by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be positive for the long run of Northwestern athletics.
“I think there will be a lot of sunshine brought to this,” he says, and “the foundation of NU athletics will be stronger for it.”