Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Second lawsuit filed against Northwestern in football hazing case

Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal
Ryan field. Multiple players have come forward describing hazing rituals on the Northwestern football team.

A second former Northwestern football player has filed a lawsuit against former NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald, University President Michael Schill and Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Derrick Gragg, claiming negligence and willful and wanton conduct in preventing and intervening in hazing within the football program.

The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, is also being brought against former Athletic Director Jim Phillips.

The lawsuit was anonymously filed a day after another suit was brought against Fitzgerald, former University President Morton Schapiro, Schill and Gragg. Both lawsuits follow Fitzgerald’s firing last Tuesday after reports of hazing were published in The Daily

In a statement, Fitzgerald’s attorney Dan Webb said that no arguments have been made that present any “substantive, detailed, factual allegations.”

“Nothing in the John Doe complaint or in today’s press conferences contradicts in any way the conclusion of the in-depth, time intensive and independent investigation led by ArentFox Schiff,” Webb said in the statement. “Namely, that Coach Fitzgerald had no knowledge of any form of hazing within the Northwestern football program.

Patrick A. Salvi II, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in both suits, said he believes the student-athletes are entitled to compensatory damages and punitive damages. 

In a press conference Wednesday, Salvi and Parker Stinar, another attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the facts substantiate their client’s claims. 

The attorneys said they have learned about abuse in the softball program, “serious hazing incidents” in the volleyball program, “toxic culture” under former baseball coach Jim Foster and sexual abuse in the cheerleading program, including allegations detailed in a 2021 lawsuit. 

The lawsuit alleged cheerleaders were ordered to attend social functions with prominent alumni “where they were required to be flirtatious and socialize with these prominent alumni.” Stinar said the cheerleader “felt they were sexually abused and were sexually assaulted.” 

The case is currently assigned to Judge Edmond E. Chang in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. 

Stinar said some players are ultimately filing this lawsuit because they want to see the alleged abuse stop. 

“This is an institution that failed their students and failed their student-athletes,” Stinar said. “These are students, these are young individuals, these are athletes who were subjected to abuse by an athletic program and a university.” 

Renowned trial lawyer Dan Webb, who represents Fitzgerald, made a statement Tuesday criticizing the first lawsuit. 

“The complaint makes a variety of broad-based and sweeping allegations ‘upon information and belief,’ without citing any specific facts or evidence,” Webb wrote in a statement. 

Fitzgerald has maintained he had no knowledge of the hazing practices that spurred his termination. Stinar said he and his clients do not believe those claims. 

“There’s nothing that a head football coach doesn’t know about,” Stinar said. 

Stinar also casted doubts on ArentFox Schiff, the firm that conducted the initial internal investigation into hazing in NU’s football team. Their investigation led to a two-week suspension for Fitzgerald.

Salvi questioned what he called the “various edits” to evidence before it was presented to Northwestern, and called on Northwestern to release the full, unedited investigation. 

“One way to perpetuate a toxic culture is to have this outward facade of impartiality,” Salvi said. “But at the end of the day, that outside firm ends up being so closely aligned with the institution that’s when you see behavior like this that’s allowed to go on for much longer than it should.” 

The lawyers pointed out that within 36 months, three Northwestern coaches have been terminated for allegedly allowing a culture of sexual abuse, harassment, hazing or sexual discrimination. 

“We’ve already seen fires, but there’s more smoke in the distance,” Salvi said.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that Salvi and Stinar were only representing the plaintiff in the first case, rather than the plaintiffs in both cases. The Daily regrets this error. 

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