Jim Phillips. Credit: theacc.com

Jim Phillips, who was Northwestern University’s director of athletics from 2008 until 2021, tells Evanston Now “any allegation that I ever condoned or tolerated inappropriate conduct against student athletes is absolutely false.”

Phillips, who was AD during part of the time when former football players say hazing took place, has been named as a defendant by ex-Wildcats identified only as “John Doe #2,” and “John Doe #3.”

The latter lawsuit was filed with Cook County Circuit Court Thursday, following cases from “John Doe #2” and “John Doe #1 earlier in the week.

All three contain similar allegations of emotionally and physically demeaning hazing in the NU locker room, although Phillips is a not named defendant in case #1.

The complaints were all filed by the Chicago law firm of Salvi, Schostock & Pritchard, and includes the university, dismissed coach Pat Fitzgerald, and other university officials as defendants.

In a response to questions from Evanston Now, Phillips’ e-mailed response states that “This has been a difficult time for the Northwestern University community, a place that my family called home,” and that during his 30 years in college athletics, “my highest priority has always been the safety of all student athletes.”

Phillips, who became commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference after leaving Northwestern, added that hazing is “completely unacceptable … and my heart goes out to anyone who carries the burden of being mistreated.”

Besides saying he never condoned nor tolerated such inappropriate conduct, Phillips also said, “I will vigorously defend myself against any suggestion to the contrary.”

It looks like this saga is setting up for a long stay in the courthouse.

More lawsuits are likely from former players.

A different legal team, Chicago lawyer Steve Levin and national civil rights attorney Ben Crump say they have 15 former NU athletes as clients, mostly but not all from football.

A lawsuit is expected there.

And former coach Fitzgerald, who has also denied any role in or knowledge of the hazing, potentially may end up suing NU for improper dismissal/breach of contract.

In a statement to ESPN earlier this week, the former’ coach’s attorney, Dan Webb, said “we will aggressively defend against these allegations with facts and evidence.”

Webb added that “we look forward to defending Coach Fitzgerald and taking all steps necessary to protect his legal rights, name and reputation.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. I am surprised that the NCAA and Big 10 associations have not gotten involved. Yanking TV contracts seems appropriate. Might it be time to cleanse the NU athletics teams of these hazing rituals by canceling athletics for 3 years?

  2. Canceling athletics for three years does nothing but punish the kids who want to play their sports. Does that mean eliminating scholarships too? And what about the impact on the few NU football players who may have a shot at the NFL? Ignoring the sacrifices and hard work it takes to be a D1 athlete does nothing to address this despicable situation.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *