Northwestern Fires Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald
Northwestern fired longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald on Monday amid allegations of widespread hazing within the football program.
"The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team," university president Michael Schill wrote in an open letter to the school community. "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. Either way, the culture in Northwestern Football, while incredible in some ways, was broken in others."
Defensive coordinator David Braun is expected to be named the Wildcats' acting coach, sources told ESPN.
The firing of Fitzgerald, 48, comes after the school announced Friday that he'd be suspended without pay for two weeks this summer following the conclusion of a university-commissioned investigation into allegations made by a former Northwestern football player. The school said the investigation, which was initiated in January and conducted by an outside law firm, did not find "sufficient" evidence that the coaching staff knew about ongoing hazing -- though there were "significant opportunities" to find out about it.
The school then reversed course Saturday night after The Daily Northwestern published a story detailing allegations from the former player, who described specific instances of hazing and sexual abuse. That led Schill to write an open letter to the university community in which he said that he "may have erred in weighing the appropriate sanction" for Fitzgerald and acknowledged focusing "too much on what the report concluded (Fitzgerald) didn't know and not enough on what he should have known."
In his letter Monday, Schill said the decision to fire Fitzgerald "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.
Fitzgerald, in a statement to ESPN, said he was "surprised when I learned that the president of Northwestern unilaterally revoked our agreement without any prior notification and subsequently terminated my employment," referencing the agreed-upon two-week suspension.
Fitzgerald went on to say in his statement that he has entrusted his agent, Bryan Harlan, and veteran trial attorney Dan Webb "to take the necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law."
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