Ex-N’western DC presses back on accusations

  • Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Elder WriterAug 2, 2023, 10:21 PM ET


    • College football reporter.
    • Signed up with ESPN.com in 2008.
    • Graduate of Northwestern University.Former Northwestern assistant

    coach Mike Hankwitz is pushing back versus accusations of hazing and racism in the program under former coach Pat Fitzgerald, outlining the numerous ways players could report abuse and mistreatment.Hankwitz, who served as Northwestern’s protective organizer from 2008 until

    his retirement after the 2020 season, defended Fitzgerald and the program in a series of social networks posts Wednesday night. He said Northwestern had routine private and group meetings throughout the year with players, who had direct access to Fitzgerald and likewise others around the program, consisting of a sports psychologist, compliance officers and mentors.Hankwitz also highlighted exit interviews players did when they left the program with Northwestern faculty members not related to the

    athletic department.Editor’s Picks 2 Associated” It was done this way in the hopes that the players would do not hesitate to speak their minds about their experiences without fear of reaction,”Hankwitz wrote.Northwestern fired Fitzgerald on

    July 10, three days after finishing an investigation into hazing allegations within the program. The examination largely corroborated claims from a single whistleblower, but did not find that Fitzgerald or other coaches knew of the activities. 9 previous Northwestern players have filed claims against the school alleging hazing and, sometimes, racial mistreatment. Several players declared they were required to take part in sexualized rituals in the group’s locker space and at preseason training camp in Wisconsin. Some suits declared existing assistant Matt MacPherson saw hazing incidents however did not report them. Northwestern is examining MacPherson.Some players said they feared speaking up about their experiences while they remained in the program. Former quarterback Lloyd Yates, the very first player to take legal action against Northwestern while using his name, said July 24 that there were no mechanisms to anonymously report the habits. However numerous long time Northwestern athletic department workers told ESPN that the school set up comprehensive resources for athletes to highlight mistreatment, and that Fitzgerald straight attended to hazing with the team.” If we had seen any of that things, we would have acted right away, “one longtime employee told ESPN.”The very first person who would have reacted was Fitz.”University President Michael Schill on Tuesday announced previous U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would lead a brand-new examination into the culture of Northwestern’s athletic department.”While I can not state with certainty that absolutely nothing occurred, be it innocent horseplay or joking around, the word’hazing ‘was never given our attention by a player, moms and dad, athletic employee, or administrator,”Hankwitz composed.”If it had actually been, Coach Fitzgerald would have acted and would not have tolerated it, nor would anyone on our staff.”Concerning the accusations of racism, Hankwitz said Fitzgerald at first had a policy about much shorter hairstyles that he rollovered from the previous training staff, which applied to all players and did not target Black players. He altered the policy after discussions with players, according to Hankwitz, who kept in mind that the variety of Black and Hispanic players increased during his time with the program. Northwestern also worked with former player Demetrius Fields, who is Black, as director of player engagement to “boost the players’everyday experience,”Hankwitz composed.”If hardcore/widespread racism existed in the program, why would any Black/Latino recruit have concerned Northwestern?”Hankwitz composed.”Their hosts on their recruiting gos to were our players, who were free to speak their minds.”

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