“The fact that Northwestern hoped no one would dig into this at the best journalism school in the country is wild.”
That was popular Twitter account RedditCFB on Monday night after it had been announced that Northwestern University had fired head football coach Pat Fitzgerald in the wake of damning details and hazing accusations surrounding his program.
The reference is to The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper that investigated claims by former players of disturbing hazing practices within the football program that Fitzgerald may have been aware of and did nothing to prevent.
Before the July 8 report by Nicole Markus, Alyce Brown, Cole Reynolds, and Divya Bhardwaj, Fitzgerald had been placed on unpaid suspension for two weeks following an internal investigation that found no evidence Fitzgerald knew about the incidents.
However, after the student paper released its report, which included very direct accusations of Fitzgerald’s knowledge, Northwestern president Michael Schill said in a statement that “I believe I may have erred in weighing the appropriate sanction.”
BREAKING: Three former players said Northwestern football program had a “culture of enabling racism.”https://t.co/nWPgqCxA6g
— The Daily Northwestern (@thedailynu) July 10, 2023
After that, more allegations came to light, including former players saying they experienced instances of racism from coaches and teammates. At the same time, allegations of bullying and abusive behavior cropped up against Northwestern’s baseball coach. With the university spinning into damage control, they fired Fitzgerald on Monday, ending his 17-year tenure.
While not everyone has appreciated their coverage, the Daily Northwestern and its editors and reporters have been heaped with praise from journalists and others in the sports media. At a time when so many media companies are laying off reporters or restructuring their sports coverage, it felt to many like a shining beacon of hope that the future of good sports journalism isn’t dead yet.
When you're a college kid at the student newspaper, you know you're going to face blowback if you report something critical of the football team. I'm so impressed with these Northwestern student journalists for having the integrity to report this story. https://t.co/r9y5i3l4Ct
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) July 9, 2023
.@thedailynu reporters broke national stories about the school’s prestigious football team, hazing, sexual assault + racism.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald was slapped w/ a 2-wk suspension.
But after the students' stories, he’s now out.
THIS is the impact of student journalists. https://t.co/i53kUWncfm
— Stephanie Lulay (@slulay2) July 10, 2023
The work that the Daily Northwestern has done has been nothing short of remarkable. https://t.co/RbvdgmY7kF
— Caroline Darney (@cwdarney) July 10, 2023
This is the power of student journalism. Everyone at The Daily Northwestern should be very proud of their reporting on this situation to hold those in power accountable and affect change. Exactly what journalism should be https://t.co/07ClVZTDt5
— Andrew Schnittker (@aschnitt53) July 10, 2023