Ex-Northwestern football players hire civil attorney to investigate hazing claims


CHICAGO — Eight former Northwestern football players have retained attorneys following a hazing scandal that led to the firing of coach Pat Fitzgerald and criticism of university leadership for its initial response to the allegations.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the Chicago-based Levin & Perconti personal injury law firm announced Monday that they have “uncovered a vast array of incidents of abuse in the Northwestern football program.”

They also said more athletes are expected to join the legal action and it will expand beyond Northwestern football to other college athletic programs.

Pat Fitzgerald
Pat Fitzgerald

Crump has represented the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others in high-profile civil rights cases.

Fitzgerald was fired last week after a university investigation found allegations of hazing by 11 current or former players, including “forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature,” Northwestern President Michael Schill wrote.

Fitzgerald, who led Northwestern for 17 seasons, has maintained he had no knowledge of the hazing.

After Northwestern initially suspended but did not fire him, The Daily Northwestern published an article including allegations from a former player who described specific instances of hazing and abuse and suggested Fitzgerald may have been aware.

Fitzgerald said after being fired that he was working with his agent, Bryan Harlan, and Chicago defense attorney Dan Webb. who recently represented Fox News in a defamation case, to “protect my rights in accordance with the law.”

Defensive coordinator David Braun, hired away from North Dakota State after last season, has been elevated to interim coach at Northwestern for the upcoming season.

Pat Fitzgerald

Culture issues appear to go beyond the football program at Northwestern.

First-year baseball coach Jim Foster was found in a university investigation to have “engaged in bullying and abusive behavior” and “made an inappropriate comment regarding a female staff member, and spoke negatively about his staff to other staff members,” according to a Chicago Tribune report.


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