Northwestern president says he 'may have erred' in Pat Fitzgerald suspension following hazing probe
Northwestern President Michael Schill admitted Saturday that he may not have levied the proper sanction of Wildcats head football coach following an investigation into hazing allegations.
Schill posted a note late Saturday titled “Update on Hazing Investigation.” In it, Schill publicly acknowledges that he focused too much on the conclusions of what Fitzgerald did not know about the alleged hazing.
“Upon receiving an anonymous complaint from a student-athlete in November 2022, the University acted prudently to immediately engage an independent investigator to perform a comprehensive review of the complaint, including outreach to current and former student-athletes,” Schill writes. “After reviewing the report, I assessed a two-week suspension for Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, which went into effect immediately. However, upon reflection, I believe I may have erred in weighing the appropriate sanction for Coach Fitzgerald.
“The confidential report concluded that while there was corroborating evidence that hazing had occurred, there was no direct evidence that Coach Fitzgerald was aware of the hazing. In determining an appropriate penalty for the head coach, I focused too much on what the report concluded he didn’t know and not enough on what he should have known. As the head coach of one of our athletics programs, Coach Fitzgerald is not only responsible for what happens within the program but also must take great care to uphold our institutional commitment to the student experience and our priority to ensure all students — undergraduate and graduate — can thrive during their time at Northwestern. Clearly, he failed to uphold that commitment, and I failed to sufficiently consider that failure in levying a sanction.”
The suspension of Fitzgerald for 2 weeks without pay during a summer offseason period has been criticized as a punishment too light for the disturbing nature of the hazing allegations. Schill says that there will be further discussions with university leadership about the hazing allegations and the investigation’s findings to “assess future steps”:
“In the days ahead, I will engage with University leadership, including the Board of Trustees as well as the leadership of the Faculty Senate, and will keep you abreast of any developments as I assess future steps,” Schill writes.
Schill’s update followed a Saturday statement from Northwestern football players defending Fitzgerald.