The lawyer says Northwestern fired coach Pat Fitzgerald for reasons

The lawyer says Northwestern fired coach Pat Fitzgerald for reasons

Adam RittenbergSenior writer for ESPNJuly 11, 2023 at 07:08 PM ET4 minutes to read

What’s next for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern?

Adam Rittenberg explains the consequences of Northwestern’s shooting of Pat Fitzgerald.

Evanston, Illinois – Northwestern has fired football coach Pat Fitzgerald for a reason, his attorney told ESPN Tuesday, setting up a potential legal showdown between the College Football Hall of Famer and his university.

Attorney Dan Webb said he reached out to Northwestern’s general counsel, who informed him of the dismissal of Fitzgerald for the reason. He has led the team since 2006 and is a two-time former school national defensive player of the year. University President Michael Shel Fitzgerald fired Monday afternoon, citing a partially “broken” team culture after an investigation into hazing within the program.

Webb is looking into legal strategies and has not filed a lawsuit, but has cited “two major different breaches of contract claims” with Northwestern as well as significant reputational damage.

Northwestern did not tell Webb whether it was seeking to withhold the remaining salary on Fitzgerald’s 10-year contract signed in January 2021. Fitzgerald owes more than $40 million from the school.

Webb told ESPN that, in addition to Fitzgerald’s employment contract, Northwestern violated an oral agreement reached between the coach, Schell, and the university’s general counsel last week. On Friday, Northwestern announced Fitzgerald’s two-week unpaid suspension, one of several measures retaliated after an investigation into allegations of hazing found the allegations “substantially substantiated.”

The investigation by Attorney Maggie Hickey and the ArentFox Schiff found no evidence that Fitzgerald or other Northwestern coaches knew about hazing activities, but they did have opportunities to detect and report the behavior.

“I can’t understand how you can terminate someone for some reason when they do that [Northwestern] They admit that their attorney has no evidence that my client knew anything, whatsoever, about any of the alleged harassing behavior. That you can terminate someone for a cause when they don’t know anything about it [the incidents]. “

Webb said Northwestern University general counsel Stephanie Graham assured him that the school and Fitzgerald had agreed to a two-week suspension prior to Friday’s announcement. He added that Graham told Fitzgerald and his agent, Brian Harlan, that “that’s it”.

Northwestern declined to comment when asked about the verbal agreement and the reasons why Fitzgerald was fired for some reason.

“Under Illinois law, an oral agreement is a contract,” said Webb, the former US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “They had all the facts at their fingertips. They thought the appropriate punishment would be a two-week suspension without pay. That was their verdict. They made the decision. We agreed with him, and issued a statement in support of them. .

“So, now they have violated a verbal agreement and greatly damaged his reputation. And for no reason. This whole chain of events by Northwestern, I just can’t fathom it.”

Webb alleges that Northwestern has “no new information” between Fitzgerald’s initial two-week suspension and his dismissal, noting that the details of the hazing reported by the Daily Northwestern on Saturday mirror what Hickey was told during the investigation.

Webb is open to an out-of-court decision, but he also noted the reputational damage to Fitzgerald by being fired.

“There’s a huge reputational issue that you’re going to be a part of,” said Webb. “If we were to proceed to litigation, it would be a very big tort case because he can claim for forfeiture for the eight years left on his contract. And 10 years in the future, he can’t replace it. So, you’re talking about an awful lot of money.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top