Northwestern Wildcats football coach Pat Fitzgerald «absolutely knew» about the hazing that was occurring at the program, a former player said Sunday when specific details of the alleged incidents emerged earlier in the week.
The former Wildcats player told ESPN that he spoke with university president Michael Schill about the hazing he said he witnessed while on the show. Fitzgerald has been Northwestern’s head coach since 2006 and led them to three 10-win seasons over the course of his tenure. He was suspended for two weeks while the university gathered more information about the allegations.
«Fitz absolutely knew about the hazing on this show,» the former player told ESPN. «Fitz absolutely failed to not intervene. Fitz knew and should have made it stop, and if he really didn’t know, he shouldn’t be the head coach. Either way, he shouldn’t be the head coach, because he’s not monitoring and protect the safety and well-being of student-athletes».
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The former player told the outlet that Schill was «extremely receptive» to his story and offered resources to help with the trauma of the experiences.
A current player on the Wildcats team told ESPN that the former player’s goal was to defeat Fitzgerald and get him off the show. The current player added that «the truth is that none of that happened in our dressing room.»
The former player added that he wanted to get Fitzgerald «off the show,» but his goal was bigger than that.
«I want to shine a light on this egregious and illegal behavior. I wanted illegal behavior out of the program. This is an absolutely barbaric and egregious culture that ultimately falls on the shoulders of the head coach,» the former player said, adding that the older players had a group called the «Shrek gang» and a younger player would be held in a dark room and forced to engage in «sexualized behavior».
«They have been held against their will by numerous masked seniors and have been violently hunched dry in a dark room,» the former player said. “This is a Title IX thing, this is sexual abuse and sexual assault. I don’t know why the university doesn’t make the details public.»
The former player also talked about the «Shrek List» in which players had to go through certain tests, including «naked slingshot» and «naked bear drags.» The current player rebutted and said that he had never heard of «Shrek’s List».
Both players spoke anonymously. to ESPN.
On Saturday night, Northwestern football players released a joint statement rejecting the claims that surfaced earlier in the week and expressing their support for Fitzgerald.
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«Northwestern Football players DO NOT tolerate hazing,» the letter read. «We want to reiterate that, as representatives of the Northwestern Football program, we do not tolerate hazing in any form. Hazing goes against our values of respect, integrity and personal growth. We are committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes well-being. and development of each individual on our team.
«It is disheartening to see that the accusations leveled against our team have been exaggerated and turned into lies. These fabrications have been made with the intent to damage our program and tarnish the reputation of our dedicated players and coaching staff. We firmly deny the validity of these accusations. and we stand united in our affirmation that they do not reflect the true character of our team.»
The letter added that Northwestern conducted an «independent third party» investigation into the matter that took «a rigorous six months» to complete. The investigation included interviews with current and former players, as well as the coaching staff.
Northwestern said Friday that after a six-month investigation, led by attorney Maggie Hickey of the ArentFox Schiff law firm, it found «sufficient» evidence that the coaching staff knew about the ongoing hazing, although there were «significant opportunities.» to find out. .
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On Saturday, The Daily Northwestern published a story detailing allegations by a former player who outlined specific instances of hazing and sexual abuse. The report also suggested that Fitzgerald «may have known that hazing occurred.»
Schill wrote an open letter to the university community, acknowledging focusing «too much on what the report concluded (Fitzgerald) didn’t know and not enough on what he should have known.» He said he planned to speak with university leadership, the board of trustees and faculty senate leaders to determine the next steps.
«As the head coach of one of our athletic programs, Coach Fitzgerald is not only responsible for what happens within the program, but must also take great care to maintain our institutional commitment to the student experience and our priority to ensure that all students, undergraduate and graduate, — can thrive during their time at Northwestern,» Schill wrote.
«He did not honor that commitment and I did not sufficiently consider that failure to impose a sanction.»
The school first learned of the hazing allegations in late 2022 and the former player who made the complaint spoke to investigators earlier this year as part of the investigation launched by the school. The report concluded that the claims could be «largely supported by the evidence» but could not determine whether the coaching staff knew of the cases.
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Fitzgerald was suspended for two weeks and spring training camps in Wisconsin would be discontinued. In addition, the locker room would be monitored by an official outside the reach of the coaching staff and the school would create a tool to anonymously report hazing. Coaches, staff and athletes will also be required to take anti-hazing training and the school will form a group to report on policy, culture, training and compliance.
Scott Thompson of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.