The ongoing drama at Northwestern continues. Each day brings its new challenges and allegations.
Since Pat Fitzgerald was fired as football coach shortly after being given a two-week suspension following the school’s internal investigation of allegations of hazing, lawsuits have emerged, and Fitzgerald hired a lawyer to “protect his rights”.
On Monday, attorney Ben Crump represented former Northwestern quarterback Lloyd Yates by filing suit in Illinois against Northwestern University.
Below is Webb’s entire statement; perhaps most notable was his emphasis that Fitzgerald was never named in any state court lawsuit:
“With regard to Coach Pat Fitzgerald, it is significant that this complaint (and, we assume, the 30 others the plaintiffs’ lawyers intend on filing) does not include our client as a defendant.
“While the complaint contains numerous allegations regarding student athletes’ behavior, it does not demonstrate that Coach Fitzgerald had actual and contemporaneous knowledge of those behaviors as described by it.”
Webb then goes further in his defense of Fitzgerald, the legendary former Wildcats linebacker who served as a coach for 17 seasons, winning 110 games while leading them to 10 postseason appearances.
Monday afternoon, Crump filed the lawsuit on Yates’s behalf — alleging that an “invasion culture” of hazing had become common within the Wildcats program.
So, should Fitzgerald be fired even if he did not know it was going on?
The Daily Northwestern reported details of alleged hazing by players, citing accounts from an anonymous player and corroborated by another unnamed player. They described an organized culture of hazing under Fitzgerald that involved coerced sexual acts and physical punishment.
The player claimed upperclassmen would target individuals for “running,” which involved them being restrained and “dry-humped” in a dark locker room. Freshmen allegedly were also made to strip naked and perform various acts.
One alleged punishment was the “carwash,” in which players would strip naked as other players forced them to brush past, before being sprayed with a hose. Other alleged punishments include naked pull-ups, bear crawls and “slingshots,” both players of whom claimed they saw a freshman quarterback take a snap from a center while both parties were naked.
“This behavior is indefensibly inhumane and despicable,” according to one player who spoke with The Daily Northwestern. They further reported an “abrasive and barbaric culture that has pervaded throughout that program for years and years now.”
Both players told The Daily that individuals’ names would be placed on a whiteboard labeled “Shrek’s List,” signifying they were targets of hazing. Upperclassmen sometimes target individuals by making hand signals during practices; two players who spoke to The Daily indicated that Fitzgerald made these gestures himself, suggesting his knowledge of hazing.
Following The Daily’s report, an open letter signed by all Northwestern football team members disproved details relayed to The Daily as reported in The Daily. It stated that Fitzgerald had no knowledge or involvement with hazing incidents at Northwestern.
So far, this is a he said, she said, but in today’s culture, you are guilty until proven innocent, and in this case, Fitzgerald did not even get a chance to prove his innocence. Since these allegations against the football team, it has come out that several other sports at Northwestern are also involved when it comes to hazing. So it seems an issue of culture at Northwestern to allow hazing.
If he knew and did nothing, he should be fired. The other issue would be if he didn’t know about it, maybe he should still be fired because if the allegation is true, it seems pervasive enough that he should have known. The other issue is that nothing has been proven as fact yet. So no, he should not be fired until all of the facts are known and he has been given a chance to defend himself.
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