This is about more than just Pat Fitzgerald
How do you go from a two week slap-on-the-wrist to all of this?
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On Tuesday afternoon, Northwestern University President Michael Schill announced that Pat Fitzgerald, the school’s embattled football coach, would be “relieved of his duties” after multiple current and former football players confirmed multiple, disturbing accounts of hazing within the program.
It’s rare for FBS coaches to get fired in July, and the circumstances in Evanston make this an especially unlikely development.
For one, it’s not hyperbole to say that Fitzgerald was Northwestern football. The guy is from Cook County. He was the best player on Northwestern’s 1995 and 1996 squads, the school’s first good teams since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. He joined the coaching staff in 2001, and became head coach in 2006, leading the team to what’s easily been their most prolonged run of success.
Before Fitzgerald, Northwestern football history was a few years of success with Ara Parseghian, being a little too cozy with Al Capone, and being the worst team in the country for years. This is not a guy that you can easily get rid of.
And until very recently, it didn’t look like Northwestern had any plans of getting rid of him. Last Friday, after a months-long investigation into hazing allegations, Northwestern decided to give Fitzgerald a two-week suspension…during a recruiting dead period, well before Fall practice would start. To call the punishment a slap on the wrist might have been too aggressive. The school declined to release the full report, and the executive summary did not go into the specifics of any of the alleged hazing activities, nor did it blame any specific parties.
It read like a two-page “Mistakes Were Made” memo, dumped on a Friday in July…a document meant to check enough boxes to justify going back to business as usual.
This is not a new occurrence for Northwestern athletics…which makes me think there need to be questions asked that go far beyond Pat Fitzgerald and what he knew or didn’t know.
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