Northwestern finds its scapegoat in Pat Fitzgerald after hazing incidents comes to light

Michael McCann, a long-time contributor to Sports Illustrated and the Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, once taught a class at UNH on Deflategate.

I look forward to some of the bright academic minds at Northwestern someday putting a class together on Fitz-gate, or Hazing-gate, or OMG-What-Is-Going-On-gate.

As the days pass, this entire episode makes less and less sense. The University had an outside law firm conduct a six-month investigation into hazing allegations. With the full report in hand and no deadline pressure, Northwestern President Michael Schill determined the punishment for Pat Fitzgerald was a laughable two-week suspension in July, along with a few other changes in how the football program operated. 

In other words, the school did not think the facts laid out in the report merited any sort of serious punishment.

BENDER: Pat Fitzgerald firing should should serve as cautionary tale

Three days after announcing the suspension, and two days after the Daily Northwestern presumably confirmed facts in the yet-to-be-released report, Northwestern fired Pat Fitzgerald, the most iconic figure in Northwestern athletics history with over $40 million remaining on his contract.

In other words, the school now thought the facts laid out in the report merited the most severe penalty it could hand out to the head coach.

But ONLY the head coach. The entire staff of assistants, several of whom have worked at Northwestern for at least five years, will all keep their jobs and no punishments have been announced. There have been no punishments announced for the 17 members of the Northwestern football support staff listed on the Northwestern athletics website. Fitzgerald’s boss, athletic director Derrick Gragg, has not been punished. The players who participated in the hazing, which according to Schill was confirmed by 11 players, have not been identified, suspended or expelled.

Northwestern’s decision to fire Fitzgerald, which may be the right call, was due to a ‘broken culture’ that allowed sexual misbehavior and more to go unchecked in the football locker room. Schill wrote to the Northwestern community that ‘the hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program.’ 

So why has only one person been punished?

Whoever ends up teaching a class on this chapter on Northwestern football can have lectures on News Dumps (releasing the suspension on the Friday of July 4th weekend), Public Pressure (starring the studs from the Daily Northwestern), Crisis Management (should a school president and athletic director field questions from the football players after firing their coach, or perhaps the media? – discuss), and, of course, Reversing Course.

With all of the missteps in this sad story, beginning with the abhorrent behavior in the locker room of some of the football players, to the initial sweep-it-under-the-rug game plan and the lack of transparency of the decision-making at the top and the report itself, Northwestern has also given our future professor one more topic to explore when the you-know-what hits the fan. 

Finding A Scapegoat.

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