Northwestern is expected to name David Braun as interim head coach for the 2023 college football season, according to multiple reports.
Braun has only been on the Northwestern campus for seven months. Pat Fitzgerald hired Braun to be his defensive coordinator in January, but now Braun will take on an even bigger role after Fitzgerald was fired following an investigation into allegations of hazing in the Wildcats program.
Braun has spent the past four seasons as North Dakota State’s defensive coordinator, helping the Bison win FCS national titles in 2019 and 2021. In 2021, he was named FCS Coordinator of the Year. He has never coached at FBS level before. Prior to his time at NDSU, Braun was a defensive assistant at Northern Iowa (FCS), UC Davis (FCS), Winona State (Division II), and Culver-Stockton (NAIA).
Braun and the remaining staff will be tasked with trying to keep the roster up with the season in less than two months. Although the transfer portal windows are closed, the dismissal of a manager opens a 30-day transfer window for players from an affected school. At this stage, no North West players have decided to enter the transfer portal, although several rookies have walked away from verbal commitments.
According to multiple reports, Northwestern is expected to retain Fitzgerald’s assistant coaches and other staff for the 2023 season. The Wildcats are scheduled to begin preseason training in August before opening their season at Rutgers on Sunday, Sept. 3.
Braun’s appointment as interim head coach comes three days after Fitzgerald was fired by school president Michael Schill. Schill previously decided to suspend Fitzgerald for two weeks but reversed course and fired the longtime head coach on Monday after details of alleged hazing within the North West football program emerged in a Daily Northwestern article.
Northwestern received an anonymous complaint with the allegations in November and subsequently hired an outside law firm to investigate the allegations. Last Friday, Northwestern released a summary report of the investigation and announced Fitzgerald’s suspension, among other measures.
Investigators did not find “sufficient evidence” that Fitzgerald or members of his coaching staff knew about the hazing. However, investigators concluded there were “significant opportunities” for coaches to “uncover and report hazing conduct”. Northwestern only released a summary of the investigation with very few details.
On Saturday, the day after the summary was published, an anonymous former Northwestern player described the alleged acts of hazing to the Daily Northwestern, calling it “despicable and inhumane behavior”. The player also claimed that Fitzgerald knew about the ongoing hazing and even encouraged it.
On Monday, Schill announced Fitzgerald’s dismissal after “a difficult and complex assessment” of his “initial disciplinary decision”.
“Since Friday, I have kept coming back to what we should reasonably expect of our head coaches, faculty, and campus leaders. And that’s what led me to make this decision,” Schill said.
“The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team. The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly no secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to hear what was going on. Regardless, the football culture of the North West, while amazing in some ways, was broken in others.”