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A comprehensive look at Northwestern football’s hazing allegations

All you need to know about the rapidly evolving situation.

Inside NU will continue to update this timeline as more details become available.

In the last two days, the Northwestern football program has been fraught with a damning reality.

What has traditionally been viewed as an exemplary all-around institution must now confront serious, disturbing allegations of widespread hazing, involving sexual, physical and emotional harassment. Across suspensions, statements, sources and much more, the entire scenario continues to evolve exponentially.

Below is a full-fledged look at all of the information surrounding NU’s hazing allegations, with timestamps and dates in chronological order for reference.

Content Warning: Hazing, Sexual Abuse.

Nov. 30, 2022

Four days after the conclusion of the Wildcats’ 1-11 season — which ended on Nov. 26 — a former Northwestern player reports incidents of hazing to the school via an anonymous email address, (H/T The Daily Northwestern/Northwestern’s executive summary).

December 2022

Northwestern begins its investigation into hazing claims by the aforementioned player, hiring Maggie Hickey of ArentFox Schiff, an external law firm. Throughout the ensuing months, Hickey would interview “50 people affiliated or formerly affiliated with the football program” and “reviewed, among other things, hundreds of thousands of emails and player survey data dating back to 2014,” according to the school’s eventual executive summary.

Per the summary, the player spoke to the investigation team in December.

Jan. 11, 2023

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg reports publicly that the hazing investigation has begun, and that Athletic Director Derrick Gragg informed the team about the inquiry.

In a statement provided to Inside NU, Northwestern Assistant Vice President of Communications Jon Yates shares that the intent of the investigation is to “focus on gathering facts” and would be “rigorously fair to everyone” with the end goal of finding “the underlying truth of the allegations.”

July 7, 2023

In a statement released by the university, Northwestern says that Hickey’s investigation concluded that hazing occurred within the program. The investigation could not determine any individual players or coaches who participated in the alleged incidents but gathered that knowledge of hazing was widespread across players. While Hickey’s report could not find any evidence that head coach Pat Fitzgerald knew of the hazing, she said that “there had been significant opportunities to discover and report the hazing conduct.”

Hickey said that many hazing incidents occurred in the team locker room or at “Camp Kenosha,” where the Wildcats used to hold training camp. As part of the repercussions, NU permanently discontinues the ‘Cats’ annual trip to Kenosha and places an outside human monitor inside the locker room to prevent any hazing. The monitor will not report to any member of the football staff.

In addition, Fitzgerald is suspended for two weeks, unpaid, effective immediately.

In a statement, Northwestern’s President Michael Schill said, “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. 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.”

After being informed of his suspension, Fitzgerald said in a statement, “I was very disappointed when I heard about the allegations of hazing on our football team...Northwestern football prides itself on producing not just athletes, but fine young men with character befitting the program and our University. We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward.”

July 8, 12:43 p.m. CT

The Daily Northwestern presents a story in which two former Wildcat players allege that Fitzgerald “may have known that hazing took place” — something which challenges findings from the university’s investigation.

The players also discussed graphic details of the violent and sexual acts they were subjected to as part of hazing. The principal action was “running” in which a player “would be restrained by a group of 8-10 upperclassmen dressed in various ‘Purge-like’ masks, who would then begin ‘dry-humping’ the victim in a dark locker room.” Of note, this player claims that Fitzgerald “repeatedly” made a “Shrek clap” signal during practice, something used to identify those who would experience “running.”

Other alleged forced behaviors included naked quarterback-center exchanges, “Gatorade shake challenges” and “the carwash,” in which players stood naked at shower entrances and were sprayed by hoses. Moreover, the player reported that, after discussion at hazing prevention meetings with the university, attempts to disclose coercive behaviors were met with threats.

July 8, 4:49 p.m. CT

WildcatReport’s Louie Vaccher reveals that one Northwestern staffer confirmed the alleged “running” hazing acts, marking the first non-player to report that the action did occur.

July 8, 8:16 p.m. CT

ESPN’s Rittenberg shares a Northwestern team statement that disputes the claims reported by the former player as “exaggerated and twisted,” while simultaneously endorsing Fitzgerald to remain its head coach. More specifically, the team suggests that Fitzgerald “was not involved in any of the alleged incidents in any way, shape or form” and “had no knowledge of the allegations until they were brought to his attention during the investigation.”

It was not disclosed whether the “ENTIRE” team literally included every Wildcat player, coach, assistant and staffer.

July 8, 11:10 p.m. CT

Northwestern President Michael Schill issues a statement in an email blast. Schill said, “Upon reflection, I may have erred in weighing the appropriate sanction for Coach Fitzgerald... 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.”

Moreover, Schill wrote that Fitzgerald was responsible for upholding the “institutional commitment to the student experience and our priority to ensure all students — undergraduate and graduate — can thrive during their time at Northwestern.” The president condemned Fitzgerald by arguing, “Clearly, he failed to uphold that commitment, and I failed to sufficiently consider that failure in levying a sanction.”

Schill continued: “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.”

Evening of July 8-Morning of July 9

Current, past and future Northwestern players and coaches turn to social media to support Fitzgerald. Three-year captain Paddy Fisher expressed doubts about Fitzgerald allowing such behavior, writing, “To think a coach and man of Fitz’s integrity would allow these incidents to happen in the locker room anywhere is absurd and insane to me.” Similarly, two-time All-Big Ten receiver Jeremy Ebert called Fitzgerald “one of the most genuine human beings I have ever met,” adding that he “actually cares about his players.” Former captain Nik Urban said “being a captain for him was/is/will always be one of the best honors of my life.”

Current Wildcats to publicly praise NU’s head coach include quarterback Ryan Hilinski and tight end Marshall Lang.

July 9, 11:37 a.m. CT

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg reports that after speaking with the former Northwestern player who made the allegations, ESPN received a photo of a whiteboard inside the locker room displaying the actions described in the Daily Northwestern’s report. Written on the whiteboard was the “Shrek List.” The list included which player was to be hazed, and what action would have to be done. Actions such as “naked slingshots”, and “naked bear crawls” were listed next to the player's name. While the Daily Northwestern and ESPN have confirmed the photo exists, Inside NU has not been able to independently verify the photo’s existence or accuracy.

July 9, 1:57 p.m. CT

Louie Vaccher of WildcatReport reports that multiple former staffers of the program confirmed the “running” of the players and the “car wash” hazing first reported in the Daily Northwestern.

July 9, 5:31 p.m. CT

Inside NU’s Bradley Locker reported that a former Northwestern player who graduated in 2007 shared that members of the team participated in the “car wash” hazing activity during his playing tenure at NU. It was the same practice that former Northwestern staffers confirmed to WildcatReport’s Louie Vaccher a few hours prior.

July 9, 6:01 p.m. CT

Nicole Markus of The Daily Northwestern reported that she spoke to a former offensive lineman who had experienced hazing and racism within the program. He confirmed the practice of “the car wash” that WildcatReport’s Louie Vaccher and Inside NU’s Bradley Locker also reported.

July 9, 8:49 p.m. CT

Rittenberg released another article, in which the former player who anonymously spoke with The Daily Northwestern on Saturday afternoon told ESPN that Fitzgerald was aware of hazing in the program and “absolutely failed by not intervening.” In addition, a current player, who played the same position as the former player, told Rittenberg that the former player planned to try and have Fitzgerald fired by making hazing allegations public in “a detailed plan with the sole objective to take down Fitzgerald.”

“He said his sole goal was to see Coach Fitz rot in jail,” the current player said. “The truth is that none of that stuff ever happened in our locker room.”

Another former player told ESPN that in addition to the “Gatorade shake challenge” and “car wash” hazing practices that were detailed in The Daily’s original report, players allegedly had to complete naked pullups and other physically-abusive activities during training camp at Camp Kenosha. Rittenberg said the second former player played for Fitzgerald “early in [his] tenure.”

The first former player also noted other Northwestern coaches were “negligent” in monitoring the hazing, stating that he witnessed his position coach dismissing a question about “Shrek,” relating to another hazing activity.

July 10, 11:14 a.m. CT

Inside NU’s Iggy Dowling reports that a former player who played through the 2009 season experienced racism from players and coaches during his time at Northwestern. The player said an offensive lineman called a black player “monkey” and made gestures to simulate the animal. Furthermore, the player alleges that black players were forced to cut their hair in certain ways, and black coaches were forced to do the same under the threat of unemployment.

July 10, 11:48 a.m. CT

Inside NU’s Bradley Locker reports that a former Northwestern player confirmed that the allegations of sexual hazing are “100% true” and “widespread.”

July 10, 12:31 p.m. CT

Nicole Markus, Alyce Brown and Cole Reynolds of The Daily Northwestern published an article, where three former players detailed racism in the program and corroborated hazing allegations.

“I didn’t feel like I could be anything other than white,” Ramon Diaz Jr., a Latino offensive lineman who played from 2005 to 2008, told The Daily.

Diaz also recounted how he had to shave “Cinco de Mayo” into his hair as a freshman and that a coach made a racist comment about how “Diaz’s family must know how to clean houses.” After graduating, Diaz said he had “flashbacks and nightmares of things that happened in the locker room.” He added that he still goes to therapy to talk about these experiences.

The two anonymous players also confirmed that Black players and coaches had to alter their hairstyles, building off what Inside NU’s Iggy Dowling reported earlier.

“Your blackness was not allowed to shine through, whether it was how you carried yourself all your way down to your hair,” the first anonymous player told The Daily.

All three players also confirmed the existence of the “car wash.” A hazing practice also previously confirmed by Markus, Inside NU’s Bradley Locker and WildcatReport’s Louie Vaccher.

July 10, 12:56 p.m. CT

Inside NU’s Bradley Locker published an article following up on an earlier report, where a recent player confirmed the hazing allegations are “100% true.”

The player also shared that there were “rap battles” in which players would “encourage you to say gay, homosexual things.”

July 10, 1:11 p.m. CT

Nicole Markus of The Daily Northwestern tweeted a statement from NU spokesperson Jon Yates in regard to racism allegations: “The alleged ‘racist commentary and behavior toward non-white players’ by Coach Fitzgerald and members of his staff would be entirely unacceptable and inconsistent with our culture and values, if true.”

July 10, 3 p.m. CT

The Big Ten Conference’s Twitter account announced that Paul Kennedy, Northwestern Associate A.D. for Strategic Initiatives and Communications, would be leaving his role with NU to join the Big Ten as its Vice President of Sports Communications. Kennedy had been with Northwestern since July of 2012.

July 10, 5:42 p.m. CT

The Athletic’s Matt Fortuna reported that Northwestern had parted ways with Pat Fitzgerald. After 17 seasons with the team and nearly 54 hours after The Daily released its original report, NU cut ties with its head coach.

July 10, 6:25 p.m. CT

Northwestern President Michael Schill issues another statement via email blast regarding his decision to relieve Fitzgerald of his duties. The decision to suspend the head coach and fire him was “[his] and [his] alone.”

He noted that ArentFox Schiff’s investigative report will remain confidential, but noted that he only recently learned of the identity of the first anonymous former player who came forward with claims that caused Northwestern to begin its investigation in November. In addition, he confirmed that the hazing activities consisted of “nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature.”

Schill added: “The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team. 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.”

He also noted that Derrick Gragg — who has not made a statement on any of the information released since Friday morning — will share details of what the football team’s leadership will look like for the 2023 season in the coming days.

July 10, 7:36 p.m. CT

ESPN’s Pete Thamel and Adam Rittenberg report that Northwestern defensive coordinator David Braun will serve the team’s acting coach as it begins the search for its interim. Thamel also wrote that Braun is expected to be named as the Wildcats’ interim coach.

July 10, 9:08 p.m. CT

Thamel attaches a statement from Pat Fitzgerald on Twitter. He emphasized his confidence in the positive effect that he and the Northwestern program had on student-athletes, stating that the majority of players — “99%, to be precise” — gave him “positive feedback that affirms [Fitzgerald and Northwestern’s] efforts.”

He also noted he was “surprised” that Schill terminated his employment, and said that he will rely on his agent, Bryan Harlan, and his legal counsel, Dan Webb of Winston & Strawn LLP, to “take the necessary steps to protect [his] rights in accordance with the law.”

July 11, 10:03 a.m. CT

Rittenberg reports ESPN obtained a letter in which six Northwestern faculty members requested that the university publicly reveal the hazing investigation report. Additionally, they stressed their desire for Northwestern to temporarily suspend its $800 million project to rebuild Ryan Field “until this crisis is satisfactorily resolved.”

July 11, 10:35 a.m. CT

According to Rittenberg, Derrick Gragg returned to campus for the first time since Friday, when NU released an executive summary of ArentFox Schiff’s investigation. Gragg had not spoken publicly regarding any of the above events.

July 11, 2:42 p.m. CT

Rittenberg reports that Gragg completed a meeting with Northwestern football’s assistant coaches and support staff earlier in the day, and told them that Northwestern would retain them for the 2023 season.

July 11, 4:38 p.m. CT

Dan Webb, Pat Fitzgerald’s attorney, tells ESPN that Northwestern fired Fitzgerald for cause. Webb says that he will look into legally addressing potential breaches of Fitzgerald’s contract and the former NU head coach’s agreement with the university prior to the announcement of his initial two-week suspension on Friday.

“I cannot understand how you could terminate someone for cause when [Northwestern] admit that their own lawyer does not have any evidence that my client ever knew anything at all about any of the alleged hazing behavior,” Webb said. Fitzgerald’s lawyer told Rittenberg he was willing to settle, but said it “would be a very large damage case” if he chose to proceed to litigation.

July 11, 6:33 p.m. CT

Northwestern concludes a team meeting, per ESPN. Schill, Gragg and David Braun spoke to the players, who were allowed to ask questions. However, Rittenberg spoke to a source who said the administrators’ responses were “not adequate.”

July 11, 8:10 p.m. CT

Three-star offensive lineman 2024 recruit Julius Tate, who committed to Northwestern on May 23, announces on Twitter his decision to decommit. Tate is NU’s first recruit to announce a decommitment since Pat Fitzgerald’s firing.

A little over 30 minutes later, three-star offensive tackle Payton Stewart (2024) becomes the second commit to announce his decision to withdraw from Northwestern’s program.