Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald was suspended on Friday for two weeks without pay after an investigation into hazing within the program. Some details emerged on Saturday that suggest Fitzgerald should have been fired instead.
"I've seen it with my own eyes, and it's just absolutely egregious and vile and inhumane behavior," a former player told The Daily Northwestern about an experience in November 2022. The player detailed incidents involving freshmen being assaulted "in a dark locker room.
"It's just a really abrasive and barbaric culture that has permeated throughout that program for years on end now," the player added. "It's done under this smoke and mirror of 'oh, this is team bonding,' but no, this is sexual abuse."
The act, which those in the program refer to as "running" a player, begins with a player being singled out by someone "clapping their hands above their heads around that player." The Daily reports that the player it spoke to indicated that "Fitzgerald repeatedly made the signal during practices when players, specifically freshmen, made a mistake."
"The player believes some players interpreted Fitzgerald making these signals as knowingly 'encouraging' the hazing to continue,' The Daily writes.
Other incidents relayed to The Daily involved freshmen being forced to strip naked, unwanted touching and threats of being "run" on if they didn't follow orders.
On Friday, ESPN reported that "Fitzgerald said in a statement that he was 'very disappointed' to learn of the hazing allegations."
The investigation into the hazing allegations was initiated in January and "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."
Of course, ignorance is hardly a viable excuse for what Fitzgerald is alleged to have allowed to transpire under his watch. And based on The Daily's report, he knew much more than is being suggested by himself or the university.
Northwestern would have preferred the two-week suspension be the end of this story but that just serves to make this story — which will only get bigger — even more nauseating.
It's dumbfounding and infuriating that stuff like this is not only allowed on college campuses but condoned by those in charge. Winning cures all, but Fitzgerald can't even do that. Northwestern hit rock bottom on the field last year at 1-11 and is in an even worse position off it.
For Northwestern, it's too late to do the right thing. Everything it does in the weeks to come will only be damage control.