Nebraska football should be Pat Fitzgerald’s final victory as a head coach

(Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)
(Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports) /

Pat Fitzgerald’s only win last season was against the Nebraska football team. It should also be the last of his once-distinguished career.

There was a time when Pat Fitzgerald seemed to be the most untouchable head coach in the Big Ten. Last year, his legend was cemented among Nebraska football fans as one of those guys that was just a heck of a pest. However, after a recent report surfaced from his own university’s student paper, it appears that the Northwestern head coach and former player is nearing the end of his career.

It all started late last week when Northwestern announced Fitzgerald was suspended for two weeks without pay due to a “hazing incident” on his team. It appears that The Daily Northwestern staff didn’t believe the summer suspension was anywhere near good enough.

On Saturday, the paper released a long report that shed light on just what the “hazing incident” is alleged to have been. And if the report is accurate, then no, Fitzgerald wasn’t punished enough.

The report centers around a former Northwestern player claiming that some of the hazing was of a sexual nature. That player also said that it’s possible the head coach both knew it was going on and passively encouraged it. Another player is said to have confirmed the first’s story.

According to the report, everything centers on a practice dubbed “running,” which was:

"Used to punish team members, primarily freshman, for mistakes made on the field and in practice. If a player was selected for “running,” the player who spoke to The Daily said, they would be restrained by a group of 8-10 upperclassmen dressed in various “Purge-like” masks, who would then begin “dry-humping” the victim in a dark locker room."

The student paper also reportedly got hold of whiteboards labeled “Runsgiving” and “Shrek’s List,” containing a list of names indicating players that the player said needed to be “ran.”

Where Pat Fitzgerald comes into this is that the team would often clap their hands over their helmets  around a player that needed “running” in what was called a “Shrek Clap.” The former player said that the Northwestern head coach would do the same from time to time, indicating that he knew what the “Shrek Clap” was.

Nebraska football the beginning of the end?

If this report is in any part true, then it’s time for Pat Fitzgerald to go. Ironically, the Nebraska football team might have been the first clump of dirt thrown on his grave.

The coach, who has long benefitted from lowered expectations and an occasional successful season after a losing one, started off the 2022 season on a high note. His Wildcats rallied to beat the Huskers in Dublin, Ireland.

That was also the beginning of the end of the Scott Frost era. Northwestern probably thought it had kicked off another resurgent season. Then it lost 11 in a row.

Nebraska football was Pat Fitzgerald’s only win of the 2022 campaign. It should be the last in his head coaching career.

The two-week suspension is simply not enough. Even if he didn’t explicitly encourage this kind of hazing to go on, it sure seems impossible to believe he didn’t know. And if he didn’t it’s hard to think of someone being less qualified to lead a program than someone who had the hazing going on under his oblivious nose.