Amid a hazing scandal and the subsequent firing of Northwestern University , some faculty, alumni, and investors are pushing back against the school’s plans for a $800 million renovation of its football stadium, CBS reported.
The upgrades to Ryan Field were set to begin after the 2023 season, with a reopening in 2026. But calls to delay are increasing. Those against the project argued that Northwestern must more fully address allegations of hazing and harassment before starting on the stadium.
"The timing now is wrong," said professor Susan Pearson, who is part of a group of faculty asking for a pause on the project. "Say we care more about your well-being than we do about the notoriety, the fame of our football program."
Pearson and five other faculty sent a memo to Northwestern President Michael Schill and athletic director Dr. Derrick Gragg. They are calling for independent oversight of the athletic department, something they've been asking for since separate claims of sexual harassment made by cheerleaders in 2021.
"A lot of us faculty members feel like it's really time for the administration to try to get out ahead of these problems," Pearson said.
Fitzgerald was first given a two-week suspension without pay. The school’s investigation into the systemic hazing that was "well-known by many in the program" had not found “any credible evidence that Coach Fitzgerald himself knew about it,” Schill said in a letter.
But that sanction was later changed to termination after student paper The Daily Northwestern published a player’s account of sexualized hazing. The publication has also published reports about possible racism in the football program.
Former Northwestern football player Ramon Diaz Jr. – he was an offensive lineman 2005-2009 – has also come forth with allegations and claims of sexual and racist hazing.
"Everybody saw it," Diaz said. "So many eyes. I mean, there were so many players, and nobody did anything, and they just let this go on for years."
Northwestern’s football team is standing behind Fitzgerald, calling the allegations "exaggerated" and "twisted."