Northwestern suspended coach Pat Fitzgerald for two weeks without pay Friday following an investigation into alleged hazing within the football program.
The school said an investigation led by attorney Maggie Hickey of law firm ArentFox Schiff did not find “sufficient” evidence that the coaching staff knew about ongoing hazing. But investigators found there were “significant opportunities” to find out about it and report the conduct.
Fitzgerald started serving his suspension on Friday. He said in a statement he was “very disappointed” when he heard about the hazing allegations.
“Northwestern football prides itself on producing not just athletes, but fine young men with character befitting the program and our university,” he said. “We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward.”
Investigators said the hazing often happened in the team’s locker room and the activities might have begun at its longtime training camp home in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Northwestern said Friday it will no longer hold camp in Kenosha and will have someone not affiliated with the program monitor the locker room.
The school said it will require annual anti-hazing training for coaches, staff members and athletes with an emphasis on reporting options and the responsibility to report as well as discipline. Other measures include creating an online tool for athletes to report hazing anonymously, and the formation of an internal working group of Northwestern leaders “across various disciplines” to “create a report on policy development, organizational culture, communication, training and enforcement.” The school also said it will work with the NCAA and Big Ten to “ensure all processes and rules are followed.”
“Northwestern Athletics prides itself on providing a world-class student-athlete experience, which includes a safe and respectful environment for all of our students, coaches and staff,” athletic director Derrick Gragg said. “We respect the courage of the individuals who came forward to make us aware of the issue, and we vow to do our part to create a more positive environment moving forward.”
Fitzgerald’s suspension comes after the Wildcats went 1-11 last season for their worst record since the 1989 team finished 0-11. They’ve lost 17 of their past 18 games.
Fitzgerald is 110-101 in 17 seasons leading his alma mater and is by far the school’s winningest coach. He led the Wildcats to Big Ten West championships in 2018 and 2020 plus five bowl victories. But they are 4-20 over the past two seasons.