Northwestern University fired longtime football coach Pat Fitzgerald on Monday night after a tumultuous weekend that exposed hazing and racism allegations.
The school began investigating hazing within the football team after a whistleblower reported it in November 2022.
Following a lengthy third-party investigation, Northwestern announced last Friday that Fitzgerald would be placed on unpaid leave for two weeks. The school did not release the full investigation.
But hours after Fitzgerald’s offseason suspension was announced, the student-run Daily Northwestern reported details of the hazing allegations, which included descriptions of rampant sexual harassment in the team locker room.
“It’s done under this smoke and mirror of ‘Oh, this is team bonding,’ but no, this is sexual abuse,” an unnamed player told the student paper.
While dozens of former players claimed the hazing never happened and stood behind Fitzgerald, multiple other players spoke with various outlets and described hazing during their time at the school. Fitzgerald had coached Northwestern since 2006.
On Monday, three more players spoke with the Daily Northwestern and said they dealt with a racist environment while playing football at Northwestern.
University President Michael Schill said the initial investigation found 11 current and former players who described hazing during Fitzgerald’s reign.
“The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team,” Schill said in a statement. “The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to learn what was happening.”
Fitzgerald responded with a statement saying he was shocked by the decision and had hired high-powered attorney Dan Webb, who once deposed Ronald Reagan.
“I take great pride in the achievements we accomplished during my tenure, both on and off the field,” Fitzgerald said.