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Northwestern Wildcats football coach Pat Fitzgerald has been fired by the school following multiple reports that alleged hazing incidents that took place on the team had gotten a little more than out of hand. The 48-year-old had been at the helm in Evanston since 2006.

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Northwestern President Michael Schill released a statement Monday afternoon, saying, “This afternoon, I informed Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald that he was being relieved of his duties effective immediately.”

Schill went on to say that members of the Wildcats program had intimidated teammates into “forced participation, nudity, and sexualized act(s) of a degrading nature.” He also said that he had no knowledge of any physical injuries taking place, but the activity violated the student-athlete code and campus policy, nonetheless.

The NU President also said that he did not have any evidence that Pat Fitzgerald engaged in – or even knew about –  the horrific hazing. Which may be true – there may be no evidence that Fitzgerald knew, but that does not mean he didn’t know.

But, the fact that the culture grew under his watch was enough for his ouster.

“The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team. The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to learn what was happening. Either way, the culture in Northwestern Football, while incredible in some ways, was broken in others,” Schill wrote in his message to the Northwestern community.

Fitzgerald had already been suspended by the university for two weeks without pay, as the strange and even disgusting details began to emerge about severe hazing practices by his football players. The allegations that have already surfaced have been brutal and graphic, to the point that it’s been difficult for some outlets to find ways to ‘cleanly’ describe them when reporting them. And rumors are swirling around Evanston that the stories are set to get even worse.

But are they just stories? Because there seems to be a conspiracy going around about this conspiracy.

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Almost instantly, many of Fitzgerald’s supporters have called the coach’s involvement with any wrongdoing into question. Several former Northwestern football players – including some who are currently in the NFL – have come down harshly on their alma mater. So, it’s a firestorm that is likely to only get hotter.

One of the biggest factors involved is the sterling reputation that Pat Fitzgerald possessed prior to this scandal. Prior to becoming the head coach of the program, he had more or less been a part of the Northwestern program. He strolled onto campus in 1993 and went on to become a standout linebacker. He was a part of the school’s legendary 1996 Rose Bowl squad and would return to campus in 2001 as an assistant coach. He would ascend to the top job just five years later.

Wildly popular among the alumni and Wildcat fans, his departure is not being taken well by those who have a passion for The Purple. Because the coach has been essentially squeaky clean both in and out of the program for a span of 30 years, it didn’t take long for the shouting to start. And one of the biggest complaints (rightfully so) is that Northwestern President Schill basically soft-pedaled the situation until it became a bigger public relations problem.

Fitzgerald has vowed that he’s going to fight his termination. However, a lawsuit has not been filed or announced publicly at press time.

Pat Fitzgerald leaves Northwestern University’s football program as its all-time winningest head coach. In 17 seasons, he notched a 110-101 record and a 5-5 mark in 10 bowl games. However, the ‘Cats finished last season 1-11, the program’s lowest total since 1989.

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