Northwestern will retain all of its assistant coaches and staff for the 2023 season despite the firing of head coach Pat Fitzgerald on Monday following a hazing scandal, the school told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg on Tuesday.
Northwestern athletic director Derrick Gragg met with coaches and staff in a meeting on Tuesday to let them know they would be retained. Gragg did not name an interim coach at that meeting. Defensive coordinator David Braun, who joined the team this offseason after serving in the same position at North Dakota State, runs the program until an interim coach is officially named.
Northwestern fired Fitzgerald on Monday amid the hazing scandal within the Wildcats program. Fitzgerald, who both played at Northwestern and has been its head coach since 2006, was initially suspended for two weeks without pay on Friday after an investigation into the allegations. A Daily Northwestern story detailing this alleged hazing, however, later led to his dismissal.
An anonymous former player described the alleged acts of hazing as “despicable and inhumane behaviour” and claimed Fitzgerald both knew it was happening and encouraged it. Among the alleged activities were stripping and performing acts like bear crawling, quarterback trading and more.
Northwestern President Michael Schill said 11 current or former players have acknowledged hazing in the program is happening and is “well known to many.” Three former players also came forward with allegations of racism on the program on Monday.
Schill said Monday the decision to fire Fitzgerald was his. Fitzgerald and Gragg informed the team of the news in an emotional and tense meeting.
Fitzgerald said in a statement late Monday that he was now taking “necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law.”
“Last Friday, Northwestern and I reached mutual agreement regarding the appropriate resolution following Ms. Hickey’s thorough investigation,” Fitzgerald said, in part. “Therefore, I was surprised when I learned that the President of Northwestern had unilaterally revoked our agreement without any prior notification and subsequently terminated my employment.”
Fitzgerald, 48, held a 110-101 record in his 17 seasons at Northwestern. He led the program to five bowl wins and two Big Ten West Division titles. The Wildcats went just 1-11 last season. They will open this season on September 3 at Rutgers.