To AD’s Anger, Northwestern Players & OC Wear Shirts Supporting Fired Pat Fitzgerald

The Northwestern Wildcats football program finds itself embroiled in yet another controversy as players and coaching staff members were spotted wearing T-shirts during practice that supported former head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald was fired last month amidst hazing allegations that rocked the university.

The shirts, emblazoned with the phrase “Cats Against the World” and the number 51, worn by Fitzgerald during his illustrious playing career at Northwestern, have sparked heated debate within the community and among university officials.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian was identified among the coaches donning the T-shirts, as confirmed by multiple reports. This gesture reveals the continued support Fitzgerald maintains within the program, despite the cloud of controversy surrounding his departure.

Prior to the allegations, Fitzgerald was universally respected in the college football world and was thought as one of the premier coaches in the country.

Llinebacker Bryce Gallagher said: “What I can tell you is right now we have a great culture in our locker room and the guys are really sticking together through all this. The older guys are really just focused on helping these younger guys out, helping each other get through this, and just leaning on our relationships.”

Gallagher added that the players were “devastated” upon learning of Fitzgerald’s firing.

You can certainly understand his players supporting him and having his back. Many instantly came to his defense as soon as the allegations came out. 

However, Northwestern Athletic Director Derrick Gragg expressed disappointment and concern over the attire, labeling it as “tone deaf” in a statement provided to ESPN.

Gragg emphasized that neither he nor the university were aware of the planned display of support.

In his statement, Gragg asserted: “The shirts are inappropriate, offensive and tone deaf. Let me be crystal clear: hazing has no place at Northwestern, and we are committed to do whatever is necessary to address hazing-related issues, including thoroughly investigating any incidents or allegations of hazing or any other misconduct.”

The dismissal of Fitzgerald came after an investigation by the university, which revealed alleged failures in preventing and addressing hazing within the football program.

Fitzgerald, a revered figure within the Northwestern community, coached the Wildcats for 17 seasons, amassing a record of 110-101 and securing five bowl victories.

Despite his accomplishments, his tenure was marred by the hazing scandal that eventually led to his dismissal. Interim head coach David Braun has taken the reins of the football program in the aftermath of Fitzgerald’s departure.

As the controversy deepens, Northwestern finds itself facing broader implications, with allegations of hazing expanding to other sports within the university. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Northwestern in relation to the scandal, adding to the institution’s challenges.

Something tells me we haven’t heard the end of this story.

What are your thoughts on the scandal?