Northwestern president, athletic director address Pat Fitzgerald firing with Wildcats players

On3 imageby:Matt Zenitz07/11/23

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A day after the firing of Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern president Michael Schill and athletic director Derrick Gragg addressed Wildcats players Tuesday evening and were asked direct questions about the change from Fitzgerald being suspended for two weeks on Friday to him ultimately being fired on Monday.

Sources told On3 that a player asked Schill at one point during the meeting: If you already had all the information regarding the hazing scandal, what changed between Friday and Monday aside from just public pressure with all of the hazing claim details becoming public? 

Schill’s response, per sources, was that it was a mistake to give Fitzgerald only a two-week suspension and that the decision to fire him came after rethinking things and having additional communication with people such as the former player who served as the whistleblower in this situation.

Prior to the meeting, Schill had only addressed Fitzgerald’s firing through letters to the Northwestern campus community. 

The session started around 5:15 p.m. CT and lasted about an hour, sources told On3.

Schill talked the most during the meeting. Gragg and Wildcats defensive coordinator David Braun spoke, too.

Among the other questions to Schill was why the news of Fitzgerald’s firing was leaked prior to players being told. Schill responded that he had no control over that and referenced a head coaching hire that was leaked when he was the president at Oregon, per sources.

During the meeting, players were also informed that a decision on an interim head coach will likely come in the next day or two.

At one point, players expressed support for Braun to be selected as the interim coach, according to sources. One player pointed at Braun and said that players want him to be the choice. Other players then chimed in, too.

Braun was hired in January after four seasons as the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State, where he was named the FCS Coordinator of the Year in 2021.