Former Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has filed a lawsuit against the university over his firing in July following hazing allegations, according to court documents. The lawsuit, filed by Fitzgerald’s legal team, claims that the university did not follow proper procedures and breached an oral agreement regarding Fitzgerald’s punishment.
In July, Fitzgerald was suspended for two weeks after an investigation into alleged hazing within the football program. The investigation concluded that Fitzgerald and his coaching staff were not aware of the incidents. However, three days later, school president Michael Schill fired Fitzgerald for cause after the allegations were made public.
The crux of Fitzgerald’s complaint lies in the allegation that he and the university agreed that his suspension would be his only punishment for the hazing allegations. The lawsuit seeks more than $130 million in compensatory damages, along with additional punitive damages.
According to the complaint, Fitzgerald was never presented with the hazing allegations during his time as head coach, and two false claims were made. The lawsuit also alleges that Fitzgerald was never given written notice of the specific breaches of his contract that would lead to his firing for cause.
Northwestern, on the other hand, stated that multiple current or former football student-athletes acknowledged hazing within the program. However, Fitzgerald’s attorney countered that no new evidence of hazing had been presented, and that Fitzgerald had no knowledge of any hazing conduct.
Legal experts suggest that the university’s decision to fire Fitzgerald for cause without presenting new evidence may open them up to wrongful termination litigation based on the original suspension agreement.
Furthermore, Fitzgerald’s situation is comparable to that of Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, who is also considering suing the university over his firing. Had Fitzgerald been fired without cause, he would have been owed around $43 million.
The lawsuit contends that Northwestern did not follow the proper process for firing a coach for cause, which raises questions about the legality of the university’s actions.
As the legal battle ensues, the implications for Northwestern and the future of their football program remain uncertain.
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