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Pat Fitzgerald, Former Northwestern Football Coach, Dismissed Amid Hazing Accusations

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In a surprising turn of events, Pat Fitzgerald, the head coach of the Northwestern University football team, has been relieved of his duties following an investigation into hazing allegations.
Fitzgerald, a former player for the Wildcats, had been with the university since 2001. He took over as head coach in 2006. Throughout his tenure, Fitzgerald led the team to 10 bowl games and was recognized as the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2018. He currently holds the record for the most wins by a coach in Northwestern’s football history, according to ESPN.
In November 2022, Northwestern University received an anonymous email from a former student, raising concerns about hazing within the football program. Thus, the university promptly initiated an investigation. To conduct the investigation, they enlisted the expertise of Maggie Hickey, a former Illinois inspector general and an internal investigator with the law firm ArentFox Schiff.
As part of the investigation, Hickey and her team conducted interviews with over 50 individuals connected to the football program. They also thoroughly examined a vast amount of data, including “hundreds of thousands of emails” and player survey records dating back to 2014. While no specific evidence of misconduct involving particular players or coaching staff was uncovered, the investigation did reveal that a majority of players were either involved in the hazing practices or had knowledge of them.
After reviewing the executive summary of the investigation, University President Michael Schill initially handed Fitzgerald a two-week suspension without pay on Friday. In a letter addressed to the university community on Saturday, Schill explained his change of heart. He revealed that he spent the weekend reflecting and discussing with various stakeholders, including university leaders, students, alumni, and Fitzgerald himself. On Monday, Schill published another letter, this time announcing his decision to part ways with Fitzgerald.
While representatives for Fitzgerald did not respond immediately to a request for comment, the coach did release a statement to ESPN. In his statement, Fitzgerald asserted that the university’s investigation reinforced his long-standing claim that he had no knowledge of any form of hazing within the Northwestern Football Program.
Schill further clarified that due to the report’s confidentiality, it would not be accessible to the public. In response to the hazing report, the university is introducing several measures. Practices for the football team will no longer take place at “Camp Kenosha” in Wisconsin, which is believed to be the origin of some hazing incidents. An online platform will be established to enable student-athletes to report incidents anonymously.
Mandatory anti-hazing training will also be provided for all coaches, staff, and athletes. Additionally, the football locker room will be monitored by an individual who is not affiliated with the coaching staff.
Although Northwestern University has not yet announced a successor to Fitzgerald, President Schill mentioned in his letter on Monday that a new head coach would be appointed soon.

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