Northwestern parted ways with head football coach Pat Fitzgerald Monday amid allegations of incessant hazing between players in the program under his leadership and that he allegedly did nothing to stop it.

Despite the current players writing a letter in support of Fitzgerald, who had been the Wildcats’ head coach since the 2006 season and is one of the greatest football players to ever play in the program, the university decided to part ways. of the.

The Athletic and ESPN first reported on the recent development.


Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald speaks to reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium on July 26, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The school later announced the decision, and university president Michael Schill explained it in a letter to the community.

«The decision follows a difficult and complex evaluation of my original disciplinary decision imposed last week on Coach Fitzgerald for failing to know or avoid significant hazing in the football program,» the letter reads. «Over the past 72 hours, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and discussing with people who love our university: the president and members of our board of trustees, faculty leadership, students, alumni, and Coach Fitzgerald himself.»

«I have also received many phone calls, texts, and emails from people I know and people I don’t know sharing their thoughts. While I appreciate the feedback and have considered it in my decision making, ultimately the decision to originally suspending Coach Fitzgerald was mine and mine alone, as was the decision to part with him.»

Schill pointed to the «facts» in the hazing case, though he said the investigative report would be kept confidential.

«During the investigation, eleven current or former soccer student-athletes acknowledged that hazing has been ongoing within the soccer program. In new media reports today, even more former Northwestern soccer student-athletes confirmed that the «Hazing was systematic and going back many years. This has never been about a former student-athlete and his motives; this is so much bigger than that,» the letter reads.

«Hazing included forced participation, nudity, and sexualized acts of a demeaning nature, in clear violation of Northwestern’s policies and values. I am grateful that, to my knowledge, no student suffered physical injury as a result of these behaviors.»

Northwest Football Helmet

Northwestern parted ways with head football coach Pat Fitzgerald Monday amid allegations of incessant hazing between players in the program under his leadership and that he allegedly did nothing to stop it. (Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images/File)

Schill said an investigator was unable to find any evidence that Fitzgerald knew about the hazing. Some of the student athletes felt that the hazing «caused significant damage with long-term consequences.»

He went on to say that Fitzgerald had the «opportunity to find out what was going on.»

«There is no question that Coach Fitzgerald has had a tremendous impact on our institution, far beyond the football field. For nearly thirty years, he has dedicated himself to Northwestern as a student-athlete, assistant coach, and head coach, and It has impacted the lives of hundreds of young people. Almost all of its players have graduated and represented the University with distinction,» the letter added.

«Over the past two days, I have received hundreds upon hundreds of emails describing how he has transformed the lives of current and former student-athletes. However, as much as Coach Fitzgerald has meant to our institution and our student-athletes «We have an obligation, indeed a responsibility, to live by our values, even when it means making difficult and painful decisions like this. We must move on,» Schill wrote.

«I recognize that my decision will not be universally applauded, and there will be people in our community who vehemently disagree with it. Ultimately, I am charged with acting in the best interest of the entire University, and this decision reflects that.» . The damage done to our institution is significant, as is the damage to some of our students.»

No successor was immediately named.

Earlier in the day, former Northwestern players brought up Fitzgerald’s racism allegations in an interview with the Daily Northwestern.

Ramón Díaz Jr., a former offensive lineman who played for Northwestern from 2005 to 2008, told the outlet that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in part because of what he allegedly faced in school.

Diaz and another player also said a former offensive line coach told a black player he «wasn’t in the neighborhood anymore» and said he had a «gangster walk.»

A former player told ESPN on Sunday that he was sure Fitzgerald knew about the hazing.

«Fitz absolutely knew about the hazing on this show,» the former player told ESPN. «Fitz absolutely failed to intervene. Fitz knew that, and he should have made it stop, and if he really didn’t know, he shouldn’t be the head coach. Either way, he shouldn’t be the head coach because he’s not monitoring and protect the safety and well-being of student-athletes.»

Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to three 10-win seasons during his tenure. He was initially suspended for two weeks while the university gathered more information about the allegations.

But once more allegations and details surfaced, it seemed like a full split had to happen.

Pat Fitzgerald leaving the field

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald runs off the field after losing to the Wisconsin Badgers at Ryan Field on October 8, 2022 in Evanston, Illinois. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)


Northwestern said Friday that after a six-month investigation, led by attorney Maggie Hickey of the ArentFox Schiff law firm, it found insufficient evidence that the coaching staff knew about the ongoing hazing, although there were «significant opportunities» to find out. .

Schill initially wrote a letter to the community and acknowledged focusing «too much on what the report concluded [Fitzgerald] I didn’t know and not enough about what I should have known.” He said he planned to speak with university leadership, the board of trustees and faculty senate leaders to determine next steps.

«As the head coach of one of our athletic programs, Coach Fitzgerald is not only responsible for what happens within the program, but must also take great care to maintain our institutional commitment to the student experience and our priority to ensure that all students – undergraduate and graduate – can thrive during their time at Northwestern,» Schill wrote.

«He did not honor that commitment and I did not sufficiently consider that failure to impose a sanction.»

Pat Fitzgerald in 2021

Pat Fitzgerald (Michael Hickey/Getty Images/File)

The school first learned of the hazing allegations in late 2022 and the former player who made the complaint spoke to investigators this year as part of the investigation launched by the school. The report concluded that the claims could be «largely supported by the evidence» but could not determine whether the coaching staff knew of the cases.


The school also said spring training camps in Wisconsin would be discontinued. In addition, the locker room would be monitored by an official outside the reach of the coaching staff and the school would create a tool to anonymously report hazing. Coaches, staff and athletes will also be required to take anti-hazing training and the school will form a group to report on policy, culture, training and compliance.

Associated Press contributed to this report.