COOK COUNTY, Ill.— The first major legal action has come in the wake of a major hazing scandal at Northwestern University.
On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed by a former player, who was with the team from 2018-2022, in Cook County Circuit Court “related to allegations of having and sexual abuse in the University’s football program.”
It lists Northwestern University, former head coach Pat Fitzgerald, current president Michael Schill, former president Morton Schapiro, current athletic director Dr. Derrick Gragg, and the school’s Board of Trustees as defendants.
The “John Doe” in the case is being represented by attorneys Patrick A. Salvi II of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard in Chicago, Parker Stinar of the Stinar Law Firm in Denver, and Adam Pulaski of Pulaski Kherker in Houston.
The lawsuit alleges that Fitzgerald and the other defendants failed to prevent or intervene in hazing traditions along with other acts that were “assaultive, illegal, and often sexual in nature.”
“We intend to hold the defendants, including Fitzgerald, accountable for the alleged actions and seek justice for victims of abuse, hazing, and discrimination. Institutions, athletic departments, and coaches are responsible for creating a safe and supportive environment for student-athletes,” said the attorneys in a joint statement. “There is no place for the vile and disturbing hazing incidents that have taken place within the Northwestern football program. We applaud the courage of our client and the others who were brave enough to speak out about their experiences in the hopes of ending these types of incidents both at Northwestern and elsewhere.
“We encourage anyone who may have information related to this matter to contact our law firms.”
The attorneys are scheduled to address the media at a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday morning.
Following the lawsuit, Northwestern University released this statement to WGN.
Protecting the welfare of every student at Northwestern University is central to our mission and something we approach with the utmost seriousness. When the University was made aware of anonymous hazing complaints in November 2022, we acted immediately with an independent investigator to conduct a comprehensive review of the allegations. We have taken a number of subsequent actions to eliminate hazing from our football program, and we will introduce additional actions in the coming weeks. The administration is committed to working alongside the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the student body to ensure that hazing has no place at Northwestern.
While this is the first lawsuit to be brought in the hazing scandal that has rocked the athletics program it most likely won’t be the last. On Monday, it was announced that eight players have retained prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump along with Chicago-based attorney Steven Levin.
This stems from the hazing scandal that has erupted around the program over the last week and a half, one that led to the ouster of Fitzgerald after 17 years following the release of serious allegations.