As Northwestern University deals with the fallout from allegations of hazing on its football team, the university’s athletic department has been mired in a different controversy centered on first-year head baseball coach Jim Foster, sources said.
Former players, alumni and people close to the baseball program told the Chicago Tribune that they alerted university administration — including President Michael Schill and athletic director Derrick Gragg — of problematic behavior from Foster starting last fall before the team kicked off its 2023 season. At least some of those complaints spurred a human resources investigation.
The university’s investigation found “sufficient evidence” that Foster “engaged in bullying and abusive behavior,” according to an internal HR document obtained by the Tribune. The probe went on to conclude that Foster “made an inappropriate comment regarding a female staff member, and spoke negatively about his staff to other staff members.”
The HR document says that the results of the investigation were shared with leaders in the Department of Athletics and Recreation “to take appropriate remedial action.” It’s unclear what action the university took against Foster, who joined Northwestern after six years at Army in West Point.
When reached by phone Monday, Foster said university policy prevented him from speaking to a reporter without first going through the university’s communication department, which could not be immediately reached for comment.
The HR document does not go into great detail about the complaints made against Foster. But former players and people close to the program who spoke to the Tribune anonymously for fear of retaliation said Foster’s interactions with players and staff could be cold at times, and at other times, combative.
While these allegations were not made public, signs of trouble were visible. In February, hitting coach and recruiting coordinator Dusty Napoleon, who had been with the team since 2015, left before the first game of the season. By the time the team returned from that opening road trip, pitching coach Jon Strauss and operations director Chris Beacom had also left the team. After the team’s 10-40 season concluded, 16 players entered the transfer portal, sources told the Tribune, and at least a half-dozen players individually met with Gragg or other athletic department leaders to voice their concerns over Foster.