Former Northwestern football player details hazing allegations
Content warning: This section contains mention of hazing and sexual assault.
The GIST: After Northwestern football head coach (HC) Pat Fitzgerald was handed a two-week unpaid suspension following credible hazing allegations on Friday, details publicly emerged elevating the hazing to the level of sexual assault the following day, causing the school to reconsider a more “appropriate penalty.” Horrifying all around.
The details: A former player anonymously reported hazing incidents to the university last November, prompting the school to hire an outside law firm to conduct a six-month investigation, the results of which were made public via a statement from the school on Friday.
- Despite strident denials and claims of exaggeration from the current team, the investigators found the hazing allegations were “widespread” and “largely supported by evidence.”
- The investigators found no proof that Fitzgerald or his staff knew about the hazing activities. As a result, Fitzgerald was suspended without pay for a mere two weeks — small potatoes, given it’s the offseason.
The additional fallout: The next day, the school paper, The Daily Northwestern, published a more detailed account from the anonymous whistleblower, describing multiple incidents of sexual assault, reporting that was corroborated by a second former player, leading university president Michael Shill to immediately reconsider Fitzgerald’s punishment.
- “I focused too much on what the report concluded [Fitzgerald] didn't know and not enough on what he should have known…. I failed to sufficiently consider that…in levying a sanction," Shill wrote in an email to Northwestern community members late Saturday. No sh!t.
Zooming out: The updated penalty has yet to be announced, and the university has declined to comment on specific allegations throughout the process. That secrecy alarmed the anonymous survivor, who told The Daily Northwestern his goal in revealing “these details is to shed light on the…absolutely inhumane traditions and activities that go on in our program.”
- He also called the previously announced sanctions a “slap on the wrist.” Time will tell if his courage to speak out will result in real ramifications and, more importantly, a wholesale culture change.