Northwestern University announced Monday it has fired its longtime head football coach after additional allegations of hazing by players surfaced in the university's student newspaper.
Pat Fitzgerald was fired after 17 seasons as head coach. Before his head coaching tenure, he was an assistant coach for five years.
An external review indicated that 11 current and former football players acknowledged that hazing has been ongoing within the football program. Northwestern said its investigation found hazing "included forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature, in clear violation of Northwestern policies and values."
The university said it did not have any evidence that Fitzgerald knew about the hazing. But university president Michael Schill said that ultimately, Fitzgerald needed to be held accountable for the alleged incidents.
"The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team," Schill said. "The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to learn what was happening. Either way, the culture in Northwestern Football, while incredible in some ways, was broken in others."
Previously, Schill had announced a two-game suspension against Fitzgerald when an initial report by the university was released last week.
But on Saturday, the Daily Northwestern reported additional details about the alleged hazing. One player said Fitzgerald may have known about the hazing. The report also gave disturbing details of the alleged hazing, which included descriptions of sexual abuse of players.
The new report prompted Schill to reconsider his punishment.
"The decision to originally suspend Coach Fitzgerald was mine and mine alone, as is the decision to part ways with him," Schill said.
In a statement to ESPN,Fitzgerald said he was "surprised" by his firing. He told the outlet his lawyers will "take the necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law."
"Attorney Maggie Hickey conducted a thorough investigation spanning several months into the allegations that led to my termination," Fitzgerald said in the statement. "Her investigation reaffirmed what I have always maintained — that I had no knowledge whatsoever of any form of hazing with the Northwestern Football Program."
Fitzgerald finished his tenure at Northwestern as the program's winningest coach, garnering a record of 110-101.
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