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Northwestern football coach fired after student journalists uncover scandal

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Northwestern football coach fired after student journalists uncover scandal
Northwestern football at Nebraska in 2019 (Photo credit: / Bob Cullinan)

A college football coach has been fired following a report that exposed an abusive, hostile environment in the program. The Daily Northwestern reported an anonymous former Northwestern football player said some of the hazing conduct investigated by the university included forced sexual acts. Another Northwestern player confirmed the details to the outlet. Former coach Pat Fitzgerald may have known of the hazing that occurred.

The Daily Northwestern is the university’s student newspaper, and the national story was broken by Nicole Markus, Alyce Brown, Cole Reynolds and Divya Bhardwaj.

The former player who spoke to the newspaper said he reported his experiences to the school in November 2022. The alleged hazing included eight to 10 upperclassmen holding up a freshman who messed up in practice and dry-humping him in a dark locker room. The act was referred to as “running” and on the white boards, some lists were titled “Runsgiving” and “Shrek’s List” with a group of players’ names that needed to be “ran.”

The former player also said freshmen were forced to strip naked and do things like bear crawl or slingshot themselves across the floor with exercise bands. The team also has an annual tradition called “the carwash” where the players would stand naked at the entrance of the showers and spin around before being forced in to rub up against another naked man.

“He was forced to engage in this,” the player said, according to the outlet. “I wish I would have told him to transfer, because this is an absolutely abusive environment, and an environment in which the safety and well-being of players is not protected at all.”

After the investigation, the school initially placed Fitzgerald on a two-week unpaid suspension.

Fitzgerald had served as Northwestern’s coach since 2006, when his predecessor, Randy Walker, suddenly died. The Daily Northwestern also reported three players from the late 2000s told the outlet the program also embraced a culture of racism.

Days after the student newspaper’s reports were published, Northwestern announced it had parted ways with Fitzgerald.

“This afternoon, I informed Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald that he was being relieved of his duties effective immediately,” Northwestern coach Michael Schill wrote in a statement. “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.”

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