Northwestern University today announced that football coach Pat Fitzgerald will serve a two week suspension without pay following an outside investigation into reports of hazing in the football program.

An a news release, the school said that while the investigation did not discover evidence that the coaching staff knew about ongoing hazing, there had been opportunities for them to discover and report the hazing conduct.

The investigation, begun last December, was led by a former Illinois inspector general Maggie Hickey of ArentFox Schiff.

Hickey reportedly found evidence to corroborate claims made by an anonymous whistleblower regarding hazing activities and events.

The school says it plans to permanently suspend training camps in Kenosha, Wisconsin, monitor the football locker room and implement new anti-hazing reporting processes and education programs for football players, coaches and staff.

“Hazing in any form is unacceptable and goes against our core values at Northwestern,” President Michael Schill said in a statement. “Our athletics programs are held to the highest standards, and in this case, we failed to meet them. I expect that today’s actions will prevent this from ever happening again.”

Fitzgerald said he was not aware of the hazing reports, adding, “We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward.”

The school said the details of Hickey’s report will remain confidential, but it did release an executive summary of the findings.

Update 7/9/23: Late Saturday Schill said the punishment imposed on Coach Fitzgerald may have been too light.

His statement came after the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern published an interview with a former football player claiming to describe details of the hazing incidents.

In  a letter to the NU community, Schill said “upon reflection, I believe I may have erred in weighing the appropriate sanction for Coach Fitzgerald.”

And the Chicago Sun-Times reported receiving a text allegedly from “team leaders” claiming the reports of hazing “have been exaggerated and twisted into lies.”

It’s unclear what may happen next, although Schill said he will discuss the issue with university leadership, including the Board of Trustees and leaders of the Faculty Senate.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. What a sick story. Why should anyone in the community support this university or stadium plan where sexual assault is done on their own players and allowed to happen? This demonstrates their priorities and they should not be trusted in anything they say.

  2. A two-week suspension in lieu of termination with cause? Fitzgerald asks the public to accept that he was so utterly incompetent as a coach and mentor to his charges that he was oblivious to this hazing—even though “participation in or knowledge of the hazing activities was widespread across football players.”
    How can a coach who is so completely checked out as to be unaware of such widespread predatory behavior be returned to his former post after a two week wrist-slap? Why should NU enjoy the subsidy of Evanston’s taxpayers while essentially shrugging off such abuses? The “Executive Summary: Northwestern Football Hazing Investigation” is woefully inadequate accountability for an institution which receives such public largesse. Any abuses perpetrated by NU are underwritten by Evanston’s taxpayers—we must all demand more accountability for our money spent.

  3. The behavior described in the hazing allegations in the Northwestern football program is indefensible. The allegations reflect a culture completely out of control, and that falls on the head coach.
    But let’s make sure that our moral high horses are not too far off the ground. Recall that we are just two years out of a disgusting scandal that involved allegations of sexual assault, harassment and abuse made by 50 young adults and minors employed by the City of Evanston. The city’s handling of this scandal was less than textbook; residents were made aware when one brave found person went to the media because of dissatisfaction over lack of response by city officials. Our current mayor, not in office at the time, described the handling of the lifeguard complaints a “serious institutional failure.”
    Horrible things happen in institutions. Those involved attempt cover ups precisely because they are horrible. What I measure is how institutions, in this case both the City of Evanston and Northwestern, correct the immediate problems and address the culture that allowed the abuse to occur. I believe that current city officials are trying to do just that, as will Northwestern leadership. Time will tell, but judge leaders on what they do after they know, not before.

  4. Allegation is a claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong,typically one made without proof.Put the pitch forks back in the barn,it’s a claim not yet proven true.

    1. Finally someone with some sense. The Daily and media and those that are against the new stadium are all jumping on the bandwagon. Not so fast. Team members are not verifying the story and in fact saying that it is an exaggeration and done by a former player who “wants to get Fitz”.
      If 1/3 true this is a problem but even the law firm report sounded odd. Let this pan out before making a decision about the validity.

      1. I am a big supporter of Northwestern and find the “same thirty people” who are anti NU tiresome.

        BUT, these are serious accusations. At the VERY MINIMUM NU needs to release the full report from the investigation with minimal redactions to protect the victims and students.

        When the US Soccer coach had accusations of battery emerge, the US soccer fed hired independent investigators and released the report in its entirety.

        When Evanston conducted the lifeguard investigation, same thing. The report was released to the public.

        Why can’t NU do the same?

  5. Shouldn’t the offending players be removed from the football team and lose their athletic scholarship?
    How about charging the offending players with sexual assault? If northwestern won’t remove the offending players (who should be able to discern right from wrong as they are attending a world class university), maybe there is no story or, northwestern is covering their tracks by making Fitzgerald the fall guy.

    1. Yes. But as a society we are loathe to punish the actual lawbreakers, and instead seek to take it out on more easily identifiable persons with little connection to the actual crimes.
      Another example are lawsuits against private property owners for providing “inadequate security” after their is a crime on their premises, while the actual lawbreaker is not prosecuted or if caught, let out under Illinois’ progressive “bail reform.”

  6. I found it so disheartening that the immediate and reflexive response of the Northwestern football team was to smear the victim.

  7. A woefully inadequate response by the Coach and by the university president. That for one second President Schill thought A two week suspension was adequate is outrageous in itself. That Coach Fitz doesn’t have enough control over his team to know this was an ongoing practice is inexcusable. They both should be fired and the team suspended. NU needs to refocus its attention on education.

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