An explosive story Saturday in the Daily Northwestern details more specific allegations behind the hazing incident that led the school to suspend longtime football coach Pat Fitzgerald two weeks without pay.
The suspension, which was announced Friday, followed an independent investigation into allegations of hazing within the Wildcats’ football program.
The Daily Northwestern story quotes an anonymous former player who alleged that some of the hazing investigated involved coerced sexual acts. A second player confirmed these details to the student publication.
The player also alleged that Fitzgerald — a former NU football star ‚ may have known that hazing took place.
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it’s just absolutely egregious and vile and inhumane behavior,” said the player, who added he reported his experiences to the university in late November 2022.
The report alleges much of the team’s hazing centered around a practice dubbed “running,” which was used to punish team members, primarily freshman, for mistakes made on the field and in practice. The Daily reported punished team members would be restrained by eight to 10 upperclassmen in a dark locker room, where the upperclassmen would begin “dry-humping” the victim.
“It’s just a really abrasive and barbaric culture that has permeated throughout that program for years on end now,” the anonymous former player told the Daily.
The publication reported it had images of whiteboards labeled “Runsgiving” and “Shrek’s List,” containing a list of names indicating players that the player said needed to be “ran.”
“It’s done under this smoke and mirror of ‘oh, this is team bonding,’ but no, this is sexual abuse,” the player told the Daily.
The Daily alleged that Fitzgerald repeatedly made the signal during practices when players, specifically freshmen, made a mistake. The anonymous player alleged some players interpreted Fitzgerald making these signals as knowingly “encouraging” the hazing to continue.
The Daily said university spokesperson Jon Yates declined to comment on the publication’s specific allegations.
The outside investigation began last December under the direction of Maggie Hickey, the former inspector general of Illinois. In late November, the university received a complaint alleging instances of hazing occurring inside the Wildcats’ normal locker room and at “Camp Kenosha” in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the program has held preseason camp.
“Hazing in any form is unacceptable and goes against our core values at Northwestern, where we strive to make the university a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students,” Northwestern president Michael Schill said in a statement announcing the decision. “Our athletics programs are held to the highest standards, and in this case, we failed to meet them. I expect that today’s actions will prevent this from ever happening again.”