Northwestern is implementing several measures to curb hazing within its football program, including a two-week suspension of coach Pat Fitzgerald after an investigation found evidence to support a claim of problematic conduct.
Fitzgerald, the Wildcats’ coach since 2006, will begin the unpaid suspension Friday. Northwestern is not set to start preseason practices until early August.
Other measures include no more off-campus practices in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the team held preseason training for years, and the monitoring of the football locker room by someone who doesn’t report to Fitzgerald or his staff.
Fitzgerald said in a statement that he was “very disappointed” to learn of 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.”
The university-commissioned investigation, launched in January, found that one claim from an anonymous whistleblower was supported, even though player accounts varied and there was not sufficient evidence that coaches knew about the conduct. According to an executive summary, the hazing incidents occurred in the team locker room and possibly started at “Camp Kenosha,” where Northwestern had spent about a week of the preseason until 2020.
“The investigation did not uncover evidence pointing to specific misconduct by any individual football player or coach, participation in or knowledge of the hazing activities was widespread across football players,” the summary reads.
Attorney Maggie Hickey of the ArentFox Schiff LLP firm led the investigation, which included more than 50 people currently or formerly affiliated with the program. The person who made the allegations spoke with investigators in December.
“Hazing in any form is unacceptable and goes against our core values at Northwestern, where we strive to make the University a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students,” university President Michael Schill said in a statement. “Our athletics programs are held to the highest standards, and in this case, we failed to meet them. I expect that today’s actions will prevent this from ever happening again.”
Northwestern has created an online tool to report alleged hazing activities and will require all coaches, players and staff to go through anti-hazing training with a focus on how to report claims.