I spent two college summers delivering Edy’s Ice Cream to Jewels, Moo & Oinks, and 7 Eleven’s throughout the Chicagoland area. The summer after my junior year I interned for NBA.com and thought I was hot stuff with a feature I wrote on Josh Smith’s basketball camp. Nicole Markus, Alyce Brown, Cole Reynolds, and Divya Bhardwaj are working for their university newspaper this summer and revealed some ugly allegations about its nationally respected football program.
Northwestern isn’t supposed to be like other major college football programs. It takes more than multiple stars next to a player’s name to put on pads for the Wildcats. They are supposed to be serious students, not simply minor-league athletes. This is the football program that took it upon itself to unionize. It turns out this football has some serious problems with hazing.
An independent investigation was commissioned by the university in January. The full results were not made public, but the university announced that hazing did occur in the locker room and at the preseason practice site in Kenosha, Wisc. A determination was made that head coach Pat Fitzgerald did not do enough to prevent the hazing and was suspended for two weeks without pay.
The undergraduates published a comprehensive report of the damning allegations in their reporting. A former player — who’s allegations were confirmed by another — described a culture of sexual hazing. An act known as “running,” would be when a player would be jumped by 8-10 upperclassmen and dry humped while they work Purge masks. It was alleged there were boards with players’ names who were in need of “running,” and that Fitzgerald would sometimes signal on the sidelines players who deserved it.
Another hazing act that was prevalent in the program was a yearly tradition known as “the carwash.” Players stood close together so that those who entered the shower would have to make naked contact, and a hose was rigged to spray entrees after they squeezed through.
Other alleged acts include forcing freshman quarterbacks to take an exchange from a center while both naked, and perform other naked acts such as bear crawling. On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Rittenburg reported that he was sent a screenshot of what was allegedly known as the “Shrek List,”on the white board It included player’s names and titles of the hazing acts.
The “ENTIRE” Northwestern football team released a statement on Saturday. They claim that they do not tolerate hazing and that the allegations made against them are “exaggerated and twisted,” and they “firmly deny the validity of these accusations.” The team also claims that Fitzgerald was not involved in any of the allegations.
So the “ENTIRE” Northwestern football team is against hazing, but an independent investigator concluded that hazing did take place. Enough so that the team is no longer allowed to practice at Camp Kenosha. Also, if there was no hazing, then what was there for them to claim that Fitzgerald was unaware of?
Hopefully the proper steps will be taken to ensure that any hazing practices will be eliminated from the Northwestern football program. While the college was taking small steps to make program changes, this report should force them to move swifty, and thoroughly.
This report by undergraduate students is excellent and a major example of why quality journalism must be funded. There must be places for reporters like these to continue to do work that brings what is done by influential people in the dark to light.
Northwestern’s suspension of Fitzgerald was eyebrow raising when it was announced. If he is deserving of any punishment in a hazing investigation, there is no way that a two-week suspension in July is enough. He returns in time for practice and now instead of dorms in Kenosha, the players will be bunking for summer practice in their regular dorms — all together.
A few quick tweaks and a systemic problem is supposed to be fixed. That is not how change is brought about, but without the reporting this story wouldn’t have survived a news cycle in which Victor Wembanyama and Brittney Spears occupied the same airspace and it did not go well.
Instead, thanks to the diligent work of four people on summer break from class, pictures are now being sent to ESPN college football reporters and this story will continue to breathe.
Reporting at the local level is still the best way for information to be gathered that holds the powerful accountable. Hopefully these four talented reporters will get to spend a career doing a job that deserves far more respect than it is given.