EVANSTON, Ill. – Northwestern University fired football coach Pat Fitzgerald on Monday amid hazing allegations at the school.
Fitzgerald, 48, who has coached the Wildcats since 2006 and has compiled a 110-101 record while leading the team to 10 bowl berths, had been serving a two-week unpaid suspension announced by the school on Friday, ESPN reported.
On Saturday, The Daily Northwestern detailed allegations from a former player who described specific instances of hazing and sexual abuse in the football program. The newspaper also reported that Fitzgerald “may have known that hazing took place.”
On Monday, The Daily Northwestern published additional allegations from former players that included elements of racism in the football program.
The suspension was announced after a six-month, university-commissioned probe into the allegations that were made by the anonymous whistleblower, WGN-TV reported.
In a letter released on Monday, Northwestern President Michael H. Schill said that Fitzgerald had been relieved of his duties “immediately.”
“The decision comes after a difficult and complex evaluation of my original discipline decision imposed last week on Coach Fitzgerald for his failure to know and prevent significant hazing in the football program,” Schill wrote. “Over the last 72 hours, I have spent a great deal of time in thought and in discussions with people who love our University — the Chair and members of our Board of Trustees, faculty leadership, students, alumni and Coach Fitzgerald himself. I have also received many phone calls, text messages and emails from those I know, and those I don’t, sharing their thoughts.
“While I am appreciative of the feedback and considered it in my decision-making, ultimately, the decision to originally suspend Coach Fitzgerald was mine and mine alone, as is the decision to part ways with him While the independent investigative report will remain confidential, it is important for our community to know the facts.”
Schill added that 11 current or former football athletes acknowledged that hazing “has been ongoing” within the football program. He said the hazing included “forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature,”
“I am grateful that — to my knowledge — no student suffered physical injury as a result of these behaviors,” Schill wrote.
Fitzgerald, a Northwestern alumnus, played linebacker for the Wildcats from 1993 to 1995, according to The Daily Northwestern. He helped the team to a 10-1 record in 1995 and an appearance in the 1996 Rose Bowl, according to the newspaper.
Fitzgerald said in a statement on Friday that he was “very disappointed” to hear about the hazing allegations, adding that he had no prior knowledge of the incidents, ESPN reported.
“Northwestern football prides itself on producing not just athletes, but fine young men with character befitting the program and our university,” Fitzgerald said. “We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward.”
Northwestern was coming off a 1-11 season in 2022, according to Sports-Reference.com. Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to 10-3 seasons three times, in 2012, 2015 and 2017. The team was 5-5 in bowl games under Fitzgerald but had won their last four postseason appearances, most recently at the Citrus Bowl during the 2020 season.
Northwestern won Big Ten West division titles under Fitzgerald in 2018 and 2020.
He returned to his alma mater as a linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator in 2001, according to The Daily Northwestern. He was elevated to the head coaching position in June 2006 following the death of Randy Walker.
Help a Deserving Family Get a New Roof for Free!
SeaWorld Howl-O-Scream and Spooktacular
LISTEN LIVE: Listen to Houston’s Eagle now!
Dean & Rog’s Thousand Dollar Minute
Play the Harley High Roller Contest
Dean & Rog Mornings
On-air surprise: Joe Buck learns he is joining father in Pro Football Hall of Fame
‘Leave him alone’: Adele halts Las Vegas show, scolds security for ‘bothering’ fan