What started as a hazing scandal involving the football team at Northwestern University has erupted into a wide-reaching scandal threatening to envelop a larger part of the school’s athletic department.
After an investigation uncovered alleged hazing and abuse within the school’s football program, student reporters blew the lid off the scandal. They interviewed former players and alleged victims of egregious and sexualized hazing. Anonymous players described graphic instances of sexual abuse and violent hazing taking place inside the football locker room. Furthermore, what they described was a culture that not only accepted such abuse but celebrated it as tradition.
Since the news of hazing in the football program came to light, Northwestern fired head football coach Pat Fitzgerald, and head baseball coach Jim Foster was also dismissed.
The allegations have continued to build. Some of the alleged victims have already filed lawsuits against the university, identifying Fitzgerald and other athletic department staffers as co-defendants.
Noted civil rights attorney Ben Crump has indicated he is representing multiple former Northwestern athletes. Crump alleges there is a toxic culture of hazing and abuse permeating through the football, baseball, and softball programs.
Hazing Scandal Exposes Toxic Culture at Northwestern University
When a scandal of this magnitude becomes public knowledge, it is not only fair but also right to contemplate the coaching staff’s awareness of the events. It is reasonable to surmise with mistreatment this widespread; the coaches must have been aware. The anonymous players even suggested that Fitzgerald had essentially given approval for these punishments to be meted out.
Now, it is not only anonymous players who have spoken out. Former running back Warren Miles Long and former Northwestern quarterback Lloyd Yates have gone on record to corroborate accusations. Yates went so far as to allege that coaches participated in the hazing in different manners. He mentioned that due to the raucousness of abuses and the proximity to staff, it would not be possible for the coaching staff to be unaware of what was happening.
A football coach should be a leader. He is a teacher and a mentor for his players, particularly at a collegiate level. The majority of these players will not become professional athletes. College Football is about more than wins and losses. Student-athletes are in the process of earning an education. Being part of a team means giving of yourself to the group. Heinous actions performed as punishment or retribution undermine the very nature of team building.
The locker room is the team’s domain, but the coach is responsible for what takes place within. Likely, Fitzgerald knew everything that was going on in the Northwestern Football locker room, as suggested by alleged victims. There were apparently lists on whiteboards of who was to brutalized next. It is unconscionable to think that a coach could sign off on assault being performed on his players by his players. For that reason, the firing of Fitzgerald was inevitable and not without cause. He is accountable for what goes on within his program.
This story will not be over soon, and it is quite likely that Northwestern will serve as a precedent for future hazing-related situations. Regardless of the final outcome, this scandal will leave its mark on the university for years to come.