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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Defense motion to dismiss Pat Fitzgerald’s lawsuit against NU, Schill denied

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman
Pat Fitzgerald. The former coach is suing Northwestern for $130 million in damages after being fired in July 2023.

The Circuit Court of Cook County denied a defense motion to dismiss former head football coach Pat Fitzgerald’s breach of contract and defamation lawsuit against Northwestern and University President Michael Schill on Tuesday.

Fitzgerald sued the University last October for breach of an oral contract, breach of employment contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false light and tortious interference with a business expectancy. The former head coach was fired in July 2023 after former players alleged a toxic environment of hazing and racism on the team.

Fitzgerald is seeking more than $130 million in compensatory damages — with $68 million left on his contract that ran through 2023 and $62 million in calculated future earning losses — along with as-yet unspecified damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.

The defendants moved to dismiss the entire 51-page complaint, but NU’s motion was dismissed in its entirety. The Court found that Fitzgerald’s attorneys provided adequate defense for six separate counts NU attempted to dismiss.

“The Court finds that the Complaint and the motions themselves contain a detailed recitation of the facts of this matter,” the decision read.

The case will now move forward in full. A judge for the Illinois Circuit Court for Cook County previously set an April 2025 trial date and denied Fitzgerald’s efforts to move the date up.

“We remain confident that the University acted appropriately in terminating Coach Fitzgerald and we will vigorously defend our position in court,” wrote University spokesperson Jon Yates in a statement to the Daily.

In a statement from Winston & Strawn Partners Dan Webb and Matthew Carter, Fitzgerald’s counsel said it will move the case forward “expeditiously” to its trial date.

“We will take all steps necessary to pursue Coach Fitzgerald’s serious claims and to protect his rights, name, and reputation,” Webb and Carter said in the Tuesday statement.

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