Both Nebraska football and the Big Ten are innocent bystanders in the damage that Northwestern has wrought dealing with coaching scandals.
Pat Fitzgerald is gone. Jim Foster is gone. Northwestern had to fire two coaches in the span of 72 hours. And they couldn’t have handled it worse.
When I wrote my pieces talking about how Northwestern football’s head coach needed to be fired, some people asked what it had to do with Nebraska football. Of course, anyone who really wondered what sort of effect the way the Wildcats handled things would have on the Huskers wasn’t really looking at the big picture.
How Northwestern handled the firing of Fitzgerald, handled telling the team, handled dealing with the media and then after botching the hell out of that, handling the firing of baseball coach Jim Foster was, as one Twitter user put it, a “disasterclass” in crisis management.
The thing about all of this is that the embarrassment that Northwestern caused itself absolutely has a splash effect. The Wildcats are a member of the Big Ten. They’ve been a relatively successful member over the last decade. At least in football and basketball. The Big Ten suffers from how those in charge dealt with everything.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers, and especially Nebraska football, suffer because they’re a conference rival. That ties them to Pat Fitzgerald’s team, especially since the now-fired coach was 6-6 against the Cornhuskers.
The Huskers were the last win of his head coaching career (assuming someone else doesn’t hire him eventually). And now, despite all the feel-good stories being told about what Matt Rhule is doing in Lincoln, we get to revisit that Scott Frost’s final squad found a way to lose to a team that went 1-11 last year. And they blew a lead to do it.
Nebraska football and the Big Ten undermined by Northwestern
While the Huskers are more innocent bystanders, minding their own business when Northwestern imploded, the Big Ten is more directly impacted. This is a conference that tends to see its member schools shoot themselves in the foot on a pretty regular basis.
When a member school isn’t doing it, the administration is doing enough fumbling around all on its own. One need to look no further than the fact that the massive TV contract the B1G has been crowing about for months actually had several big details unfinished.
Then there were schools like Ohio State and Penn State whining about playing games in the cold.
Now there’s Northwestern. Who fired two coaches this week and then met with the respective teams mostly by zoom. According to the players who attended those meetings, they weren’t allowed to ask questions.
The AD and school president seemingly acted as though they were above having to explain themselves. This despite the fact that both coaches have actually been under fire for a little while now, even if it was all private until very recently.
Pat Fitzgerald had at least 11 former players allege he turned a blind eye or encouraged hazing that included simulated sexual assault. Foster was apparently hated by almost everyone who played baseball for him. Both coaches would have likely kept floating along safe in their jobs if not for local and campus media releasing their reports.
It’s possible that as perfect as the term disasterclass coins the situation, it’s doesn’t really describe just how badly Northwestern brass botched things. And now Nebraska football and the Big Ten is left having to explain the slimy trail everyone is having to step over as they head to Indianapolis in a couple weeks for B1G media days.