NU president gives student newspaper first interview amid hazing scandal

Michael Schill fired football coach Pat Fitzgerald only after the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, published details of the hazing. This week, he granted the newspaper his first public interview on the scandal.

SHARE NU president gives student newspaper first interview amid hazing scandal
Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University.

Northwestern University President Michael Schill told the school’s student-run newspaper that its coverage of the hazing scandal affected his decision to reconsider his punishment of head football coach Pat Fitzgerald. After initially handing out a two-week suspension, Schill fired Fitzgerald three days later.

Provided

Breaking his silence about the burgeoning hazing scandal, Northwestern University President Michael Schill says he fired head football coach Pat Fitzgerald — days after ordering a two-week suspension — after concluding Fitzgerald “didn’t try to find out what was happening” and “had to bear responsibility for that.”

Schill has been under fire for slapping Fitzgerald on the wrist and reconsidering only after the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, disclosed sordid details of the sexualized hazing.

Earlier this week, Schill rewarded The Daily Northwestern with his first public interview on the scandal.

He said he initially believed a two-week suspension was appropriate because “individual culpability and knowledge matters in these things” and attorney Maggie Hickey’s internal report on the hazing scandal “concluded there was insufficient evidence to indicate” that Fitzgerald “knew about what was going on, even though there were some opportunities to find out.”

Why, then, did Schill change his mind after reading about the ugly details from player accounts?

“I was affected by reading your coverage, I was affected by additional allegations we received, I was affected by the impact it was having on our community. I came to the realization that I had over-weighted the individual knowledge. The coach ... was charged with responsibility for our student athletes and the culture,” Schill told the Daily.

“I came to the conclusion that he had failed, and he didn’t try to find out what was happening and he had to bear responsibility for that. ... If a leader messes up, they should own up to it, they should take responsibility.”

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Former Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Associated Press

The hazing allegations have damaged Northwestern’s reputation, triggered multiple lawsuits against the university and prompted several members of the NU football team to enter the transfer portal.

A Northwestern University spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Schill acknowledged under questioning that allegations of racism in NU’s football culture — also disclosed by the student newspaper — factored into his decision to fire Fitzgerald.

The NU president insisted he has “not issued a gag order on anybody” and it’s up to Athletic Director Derrick Gragg to decide if, when and how to break his silence. Gragg is “relatively new” to NU and “most of the activity that has been churned up happened before he came here,” Schill said.

With former players (front row, from left) Tom Carnifax, Simba Short and Lloyd Yates looking on, attorney Ben Crump speaks during a news conference Wednesday to discuss hazing in Northwestern University’s football program.

Joined by former players (front row, from left) Tom Carnifax, Simba Short and Lloyd Yates, attorney Ben Crump speaks during a news conference Wednesday to discuss hazing in Northwestern University’s football program.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Schill’s initial suspension of Fitzgerald has prompted some to question his judgment and whether he should be allowed to stay on as university president.

Asked if he feels his own job is “in jeopardy” or whether he has any plans to reconsider his position, Schill told the student newspaper, “Not in the slightest.”

As for the stadium renovation project now in jeopardy, Schill acknowledged getting a petition from 250 faculty members urging him to hit the pause button, but called the scandal and the stadium controversy “two different issues” that should not be “linked” together.

The Latest
Illinois Republicans rallied behind former President Donald Trump — whom they say is helping heal fractures in their own state party.
Sources said Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office informed alderpersons over the weekend that Johnson planned to fill the long-vacant zoning chair with Sigcho-Lopez and fill the Housing Committee chairmanship Sigcho-Lopez is vacating with Ald. Walter Burnett.
Donald Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Monday sided with lawyers defending the former president.
That brings the total payments to the cosmetics artist to more than $36,000 this year and in 2023. The mayor’s campaign still won’t identify the other “individuals” who’ve had their hair or cosmetics paid for.
A man was standing at a bus turnaround in the 7900 block of South Halsted Street when an armed male approached and demanded his belongings, Chicago police said. As he ran away the male opened fire.