Northwestern University Athletics Director Derrick Gragg is blasting some members of the football staff for wearing “inappropriate, offensive, and tone-deaf” T-shirts at practice on Wednesday.
In the midst of a hazing scandal which cost head coach Pat Fitzgerald his job, and has seen 13 former players sue the university over alleged abuse, the shirts said, “Cats Against the World,” and included Fitzgerald’s number 51 from his days as a Wildcats linebacker.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Gragg said he was “extremely disappointed that a few members of our football program staff” wore the shirts, which neither he nor the University were aware “that they owned or would wear ….”
No staff names were released, nor were any numbers given on how many coaches and other staffers wore the shirts.
In a morning posting on “X” (formerly Twitter), Bradley Locker, of Inside NU, put out a picture of the shirt being worn by one individual, and said “Several Northwestern coaches/staffers, including OC [offensive coordinator] Mike Bajakian, are donning” the shirts in question.
Three current Northwestern players addressed the media following practice. Those players did not specifically address the hazing allegations, but said the shirts, in the words of receiver Bryce Kirtz, were “really just a reminder to allow us to stick together.”
Interim head coach David Braun said “My purpose … is gonna be solely based on supporting these young men” and “making sure this fall is an incredible experience for them.”
As for the t-shirts, the Associated Press reported Braun saying “It certainly isn’t my business to censor anybody’s free speech.”
Braun, who was originally hired in January as defensive coordinator, and was not on staff for the period of alleged hazing, also said that “hazing certainly has no (place)” in any program.
Gragg also said that “hazing has no place at Northwestern,” and NU is “committed to do whatever is necessary to address hazing-related matters, including thoroughly investigating any incidents or allegations of hazing or any other misconduct.”