Northwestern will initiate two external reviews into its athletic department in the wake of investigations into hazing and bullying that resulted in the firing of football coach Pat Fitzgerald and baseball coach Jim Foster.
University president Michael Schill, in a letter to Northwestern faculty and staff, said the reviews are needed to ensure “appropriate accountability for the athletic department.” One review will examine how Northwestern detects threats to its athletes and implements accountability within the athletic department. The other review will assess “the culture of Northwestern Athletics and its relationship to the academic mission.”
Both reviews will be made public, unlike the football hazing investigation and an investigation of bullying and a toxic environment under Foster in the baseball program.
“I will continue to do whatever is necessary to address this situation and ensure that our athletic program remains one you can be proud of and one that is fully aligned with and reflects our values,” Schills said in his letter. “Equally important, I give you my commitment that we will redouble our efforts to safeguard the welfare of each and every student-athlete at Northwestern.”
Schill addressed the litigation Northwestern faces following the football and baseball investigations but said he cannot publicly discuss specifics. A former Northwestern player on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the university, Schill, Fitzgerald and other school leaders and trustees, alleging they were negligent in allowing hazing to take place within the program.
The firm that filed the lawsuit expects to represent other former Northwestern athletes, while a separate firm is representing 12 former football players in potential litigation against the university. Both sets of attorneys say they have spoken to former Northwestern athletes in other sports who might join lawsuits.
Fitzgerald, fired July 10 for cause, has retained noted attorney Dan Webb to pursue possible wrongful termination litigation against Northwestern. After firing Foster on July 13, athletic director Derrick Gragg said in a statement that he takes ownership of the school’s head-coaching hires.
Schill wrote Tuesday that he will announce additional measures for the football program beyond the initial steps outlined after the hazing investigation concluded July 7.
“In the wake of this unfortunate situation, my job is to work closely with you to not just restore trust in the athletic program, but to make it better and more closely integrated with our academic mission,” Schill wrote.