Northwestern announces actions to prevent hazing following football investigation
Coach Pat Fitzgerald to serve two-week suspension, new training implemented
- Link to: Northwestern Now Story
Northwestern University today announced significant actions to address and prevent hazing within its football program, following the completion of an independent investigation into allegations received after the end of the 2022 season.
The outside investigation, launched in December 2022, was led by Maggie Hickey of ArentFox Schiff. Hickey, a former inspector general of Illinois, interviewed current and former players, as well as coaches and staff, and reviewed thousands of documents. Hickey’s team found evidence to corroborate claims made by an anonymous whistleblower regarding hazing activities and events.
Hickey’s investigation found that while current and former players varied on their perspectives about the conduct, the whistleblower’s claims were largely supported by the evidence.
Although details of the investigation are confidential, the University has made public an executive summary. While the investigation did not discover evidence that coaching staff knew about ongoing hazing, the investigators said that there had been opportunities for them to discover and report the hazing conduct.
In alignment with recommendations from ArentFox Schiff, Northwestern will enact several measures to prevent future hazing, including the permanent suspension of training camps in Kenosha, Wisconsin, monitoring of the football locker room and the implementation of new anti-hazing reporting processes and education programs for football players, coaches and staff. In addition, head football coach Pat Fitzgerald will serve a two-week suspension without pay, beginning Friday, July 7.
“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,” said President Michael Schill. “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.”
Based on Hickey’s findings and recommendations, the University will take the following actions:
- Head coach Fitzgerald has been placed on a two-week suspension without pay, beginning immediately.
- Football practices at “Camp Kenosha” in Wisconsin will be permanently discontinued.
- The University will require monitoring of the football locker room by someone who doesn’t report to the football coaching staff.
- The University will create an online reporting tool specifically for student athletes to anonymously report incidents of potential hazing or hazing-related concerns.
- The University will provide and require annual mandatory anti-hazing training for all coaches, staff members and student-athletes, with an emphasis on reporting options, the duties to report, discipline for future violations and the fact that hazing is not acceptable regardless of consent.
- The University will form an internal working group comprising Northwestern leaders across various disciplines to create a report on policy development, organizational culture, communication, training and enforcement. The group will solicit input from external experts and will make their report open to the entire community.
- Northwestern Athletics will better utilize the annual student-athlete-survey process to ensure coaches are aware of and act on student concerns.
- Northwestern Athletics will work with the NCAA and Big Ten Conference to ensure all processes and rules are followed.
“Northwestern Athletics prides itself on providing a world-class student-athlete experience, which includes a safe and respectful environment for all of our students, coaches and staff,” said Combe Family Vice President for Athletics & Recreation Derrick Gragg. “We respect the courage of the individuals who came forward to make us aware of the issue, and we vow to do our part to create a more positive environment moving forward.”
Fitzgerald said he will begin serving his suspension today.
“I was very disappointed when I heard about the allegations of hazing on our football team,” Fitzgerald said. “Although I was not aware of the alleged incidents, I have spoken to University officials, and they informed me of a two-week suspension, effective immediately.
“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.”