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Northwestern Fires Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald

  • The university originally suspended Fitzgerald for two weeks after finding evidence of hazing within its football program.
  • Fitzgerald signed a 10-year, $57 million contract extension with Northwestern in 2021.
Fitzgerald signed a 10-year, $57 million contract extension with Northwestern in 2021.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern University has fired head football coach Pat Fitzgerald just days after initially suspending him for two weeks after finding evidence of hazing within the football program.

His dismissal comes two days after The Daily Northwestern, a student newspaper, published a report that covered hazing incidents at the football program with allegations from an anonymous former football player at the school. That report came one day after Northwestern announced a two-week suspension to Fitzgerald on July 7 because it found evidence to support claims of hazing in the football program following a six-month investigation conducted by a third-party law firm hired by the university. 

“During the investigation, eleven current or former football student-athletes acknowledged that hazing has been ongoing within the football program,” NU president Michael Schill said in a statement Monday. “The hazing included forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature, in clear violation of Northwestern policies and values,” adding, “The hazing was well-known by many in the program, though the investigator failed to find any credible evidence that Coach Fitzgerald himself knew about it.”

In addition to the hazing allegations, three former Northwestern football players recalled instances of racism from the coaching staff and players and described a “culture of enabling racism,” The Daily reported. All three players played at NU in the late 2000s.

Fitzgerald was head coach at Northwestern for 17 seasons from 2006 to 2022. The school had not been to a Bowl Game since the 2020 season when it won the Citrus Bowl. Northwestern finished last in the Big Ten with a 1-11 record last season, which followed its 3-9 season record in 2021.

On Saturday, the Northwestern football team released a statement that called the hazing allegations “exaggerated and twisted” in a show of support for Fitzgerald. The team’s statement also said that Fitzgerald was unaware and not involved in the alleged hazing incidents. 

Fitzgerald, 48, is two years into a 10-year, $57 million contract extension he signed with Northwestern in 2021 that was intended to last through the 2030 season. Earlier this year, the university proposed a plan to demolish its current football stadium to build a new stadium that would cost $800 million.

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