Northwestern fires football head coach amid hazing allegations
Content warning: This sections mentions hazing, verbal and sexual abuse, bullying, and racism.
The GIST: For Northwestern sports fans, the hits keep on comin’. Last weekend’s deluge of hazing and sexual assault allegations within the Wildcat football program saw head coach (HC) Pat Fitzgerald’s two-week suspension upgraded to a full firing by Monday.
- But that’s not all — more accounts of racism in the football program, plus details of an abusive culture in the Wildcat baseball team, have come to light in the last 48 hours. WTF is happening?
The racism: As discussed in depth on yesterday’s episode of The GIST of It, among other accounts, Black players and coaches were told to cut longer hairstyles, like dreadlocks, under the guise of encouraging conformity to the “Wildcat Way,” and racist and xenophobic comments were leveled at both Black and Latino athletes.
The firing: It’s unclear if the additional claims of racism expedited Fitzgerald’s Monday evening firing, and despite the HC’s own statement that he had no prior knowledge of any hazing, Northwestern’s president, Michael Schill, made it clear that that's not an excuse: “The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team.”
- In response, the 17-season HC, whose 10-year, $57M contract was inked through 2030, has retained legal counsel “to protect [his] rights.”
Baseball’s bully: As if one problematic HC wasn’t enough, a whole mess of allegations detailing a toxic culture under first-year Northwestern baseball HC Jim Foster came to light on Monday.
- Foster was generally absent and disengaged from the team, but when he did show up, he was abrasive and publicly verbally abusive toward players and coaching staff, including making inappropriate comments about a female staffer’s body.
- Under these conditions, the Wildcats finished with an abysmal 10-40 record, half the team reportedly sought therapy, 16 players entered the transfer portal (including all three team captains), and three staffers quit after the university failed to address the abuse.
Zooming out: While the situation is ever-changing, the biggest concern may be when the university knew about these horrific cultures — for example, they were informed via an HR report about Foster’s abuses last November, yet they took no steps to protect baseball players or staffers. Plus, as of last night, all other football coaches’ jobs are apparently safe.
- It’s instead taken reporting — mostly by the summer crew of the student paper, The Daily Northwestern — to expose and force the university to action. Perhaps the most troubling question is: What unexposed issues remain rampant in the Wildcat ranks?