EVANSTON, Ill. — While Pat Fitzgerald won’t return to the Northwestern football program in the wake of a hazing scandal, the members of his staff will remain.
On Tuesday afternoon, the school confirmed that the former head coach’s assistants and support staff will be retained for the 2023 season. Per Northwestern, they were informed about their status by athletic director Dr. Derrick Gragg on Tuesday.
On the Wildcats’ website, there are 15 assistant coaches & graduate assistants that are currently on staff. It’s been reported by a few outlets that defensive coordinator David Braun, who just joined the staff from North Dakota State this offseason, will be named the acting coach in Fitzgerald’s place.
There are also 18 members of the support staff listed on the website as well. Northwestern is likely to begin its preseason practices in early August with their season opener against Rutgers set for Sunday, September 3 at 11 a.m. central time in Piscataway, New Jersey.
This comes less than 24 hours after Fitzgerald, the leader of the program since 2006, was fired 72 hours after the conclusion of an investigation into hazing allegations by former Illinois inspector general Maggie Hickey.
Originally, Northwestern president Michael Schill announced a two-week unpaid suspension for the head coach when Hickey’s report found that an anonymous whistleblower’s claims against the program were “largely supported by the evidence.”
After more details of the alleged hazing were reported by The Daily Northwestern through the whistleblower, he said that he believed he “erred” in his punishment from Fitzgerald on Saturday night.
Early Monday night, he made the decision to fire the coach, saying that the decision for both punishments “was mine and mine alone.”
On Monday night, through the law firm Winston and Strawn, Fitzgerald released this statement.
I had the privilege of serving as the Head Football Coach at Northwestern University for the past 17 years. As a former Wildcat player who played a part in the remarkable transformation of our program, it was a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead the team. I take great pride in the achievements we accomplished during my tenure, both on and off the field. I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to nurturing our players, not only as athletes but also as exemplary students and members of the community. Our program instilled in young men the qualities to become outstanding husbands, fathers, and valuable contributors to society. Our players were well-prepared to make a positive impact in the world, and I am confident in the success we achieved together. The overwhelming majority of players we coached, 99% to be precise, have provided positive feedback that affirms our efforts.
Attorney Maggie Hickey conducted a thorough investigation spanning several months into the allegations that led to my termination. Her investigation reaffirmed what I have always maintained—that I had no knowledge whatsoever of any form of hazing within the Northwestern Football Program.
Last Friday, Northwestern and I came to a mutual agreement regarding the appropriate resolution following the thorough investigation conducted by Ms. Hickey. This agreement stipulated a two-week suspension. Therefore, I was surprised when I learned that the president of Northwestern unilaterally revoked our agreement without any prior notification and subsequently terminated my employment.
Given this unexpected turn of events, I have entrusted my agent, Bryan Harlan, and legal counsel, Dan Webb from Winston & Strawn LLP, to take the necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law.
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