Northwestern University says a lawsuit filed by two former assistant baseball coaches and the former director of baseball operations is “without merit and the University intends to contest it vigorously.”
The former staffers, ex-Operations Director Chris Beacom, and ex-assistant coaches Dusty Napoleon and Jon Strauss filed the suit Monday, claiming they were demoted and ultimately had their contracts non-renewed because they complained about then-head baseball coach Jim Foster and Foster’s alleged mistreatment of athletes and other baseball staff members.
“Our collective careers were over,” said Beacom, who held a press conference with his attorney, Chris Esbrook, who is also representing the other two plaintiffs.
“Northwestern retaliated against us,” Beacom said, for complaining about Foster’s alleged “abusive and dangerous” behavior, such as bullying, racist and sexist comments, discouraging injured players from seeking medical treatment, and violating NCAA recruiting regulations.
The former employees’ complaint says they had also reported those alleged recruiting violations directly to the NCAA.
“Foster repeatedly asked staff members to violate NCAA rules,” the lawsuit says, “including meeting with underage players and conducting unofficial visits.” The suit says the former staffers separately informed NU human resources about going to the NCAA.
Foster was fired last month after an internal investigation, but Beacom said he and his two colleagues complained both verbally and in writing in the fall of 2022, but NU “swept our reports under the rug,” only dismissing Foster after news stories surfaced about his alleged behavior.
After their initial complaints, attorney Esbrook said the plaintiffs “emailed Northwestern eight or more times asking for help, and each of those emails did not receive a response. Not once.”
Esbrook said the three were told by NU on the day before the baseball season began that “what they said was true,” about Foster, but were also instructed to “just deal with it.”
However, in a statement emailed to Evanston Now, University spokesperson Jon Yates, besides saying the lawsuit was without merit and that NU will fight it, also disputed the plaintiffs’ allegations.
When NU and athletic director Derrick Gragg were first made aware of the complaints about Foster, Yates said, “the University immediately initiated a human resources investigaton.”
Yates said the two assistants and the operations director “received full support from the University, they were paid for their full contracts, and, at their request, were allowed to support other areas of our athletic department as needed.”
Yates noted that Coach Foster was let go, and said, “In this instance and others, the athletic director and athletic department acted promptly and handled the complaints in accordance with established university policy and protocols.”
However, plaintiffs’ attorney Esbrook said NU “violated its own code of ethics.”
And Beacom, a Northwestern student-athlete in the mid-1980s, said he was “deeply and personally saddened that NU has failed to live up to its values.”
The lawsuit, in Cook County Circuit Court, asks for financial damages.
This litigation is not related to the more than a dozen-other lawsuits filed by former Wildcat football players in connection with alleged hazing in that program, nor is it connected to the lawsuits filed by a former volleyball and a former lacrosse player.