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Pat Fitzgerald sues Northwestern, alleges wrongful termination

Ousted Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald, fired amid a hazing investigation, is seeking more than $130 million in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The suit, filed in Cook County, Ill., names the university and its president as defendants. Fitzgerald contends the school wrongfully fired him for cause, defamed him and intentionally caused emotional distress.

Fitzgerald, a Northwestern alum, wants to be paid the $68 million remaining on his contract, which was due to expire before the 2031 season. He also wants millions for future earnings, contending he won’t be able to find a similar job.

By firing Fitzgerald for cause, the university contends his contract is null and void.

“If there was ever an athletic coach at Northwestern University that should not have been terminated, it was Coach Fitzgerald,” said his attorney, Dan Webb. He contended in a news conference Thursday that the school had ruined Fitzgerald’s reputation without evidence.

Northwestern president Michael Schill said in July that an independent investigation found hazing allegations were “largely supported by evidence.”

The firing came after a player came forward to the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern, and revealed that some of the alleged hazing included coerced sexual acts. Fitzgerald is also accused of presiding over a “culture of enabling racism.”

In a statement, per USA Today, the school said Fitzgerald “had the responsibility to know that hazing was occurring and to stop it” but didn’t.

“The safety of our students remains our highest priority, and we deeply regret that any student-athletes experienced hazing,” the school said in part of the statement. “We remain confident that the University acted appropriately in terminating Fitzgerald and we will vigorously defend our position in court.”

Schill suspended and later fired Fitzgerald following the investigations.

At least 13 players have sued the school, describing acts that allegedly took place, including “naked” events. Fitzgerald has been named as a defendant in six of the lawsuits.

Fitzgerald, 48, coached Northwestern from 2006-22, going 110-101 during his tenure. The Wildcats were 5-5 in bowl games.

–Field Level Media

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