Update: Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been fired.
Original story: The hazing ritual was called “running,” a form of punishment where a freshman would be restrained by masked upperclassmen who would “dry hump” the player in a dark locker room.
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it’s just absolutely egregious and vile and inhumane behavior,” said a former player, who asked to remain anonymous.
The allegation of “running” was made by one former Northwestern football player and corroborated by another in a graphic account about hazing in the program reported by the Daily Northwestern.
An investigation into hazing in the football program has already resulted in 18-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald being suspended for two weeks, though the university is examining this punishment in light of the specifics detailed in the Daily Northwestern report. Fitzgerald said he had no knowledge of hazing and current players released a statement Saturday supporting their coach.
The hazing incidents reported at Northwestern all have a common theme: Forced male-to-male sexual acts intended to humiliate players who made mistakes at practice or during games. It’s homophobia at its worst.
The Daily Northwestern obtained images of whiteboards labeled “Runsgiving” and “Shrek’s List,” containing a list of names indicating players that the player said needed to be “ran.”
The player said the tradition was especially common during training camp and around Thanksgiving and Christmas, which he said the team called “Runsgiving” and “Runsmas.”
“It’s done under this smoke and mirror of ‘Oh, this is team bonding,’ but no, this is sexual abuse,” the player said.
According to the former player, team members allegedly identified players for “running” by clapping their hands above their heads around that player. The practice, the player said, was known within the team as “the Shrek clap.”
The Daily obtained a video of a player clapping his hands during a game, which the anonymous player said was the same motion taken to signify “running.”
According to the player who spoke with The Daily, Fitzgerald repeatedly made the signal during practices when players, specifically freshmen, made a mistake.
The player believes some players interpreted Fitzgerald making these signals as knowingly “encouraging” the hazing to continue.
“Everyone would just be looking at each other and be like ‘Bro, Fitz knows about this,’ because you wouldn’t take that action otherwise,” the player said. “Everyone joins in, because he’s the head coach.”
Here are some of the other hazing specifics as detailed in the report:
- “Freshmen being forced to strip naked and perform various acts, including bear crawling and slingshotting themselves across the floor with exercise bands. “
- “The carwash,” where “some players would stand naked at the entrance to the showers and spin around, forcing those entering the showers to ‘basically [rub] up against a bare-naked man.’ Upon entering the showers, the player alleged that players set up a hose they connected to the shower to spray people. ‘It’s extremely painful,’ the player said.”
- A ritual where a freshman quarterback was forced to take a snap under center with both players naked.
“It’s a shocking experience as a freshman to see your fellow freshmen teammates get ran, but then you see everybody bystanding in the locker room,” the former player told the Daily Northwestern. “It’s just a really abrasive and barbaric culture that has permeated throughout that program for years on end now.”
Make no mistake about it — hazing is largely about sexuality, from two different angles. First is the notion of making someone submissive to prove your own masculinity. Whether it’s sodomizing them or making them wear women’s panties, the notion of forcing younger players to submit to team veterans comes right out of the handbook of anti-gay stereotypes.
Many of the acts that younger players are submitted to are also homoerotic or homosexual. Licking each other’s bodies, simulating sex acts, forced sodomy with various objects — these acts work on two levels. First, they reinforce the notion that same-sex affection is weaker; the subjected men are rarely “hazed” with forced affection from someone of the opposite sex. Second, they serve to satisfy the latent homosexuality of many of the players involved.
Fitzgerald needs to be fired if the most recent detailed allegations are substantiated. Either he knew about them and gave tacit permission for hazing to occur, or he was clueless about what was happening in his program. Neither answer is satisfactory. The fact that his teams have gone 3-9 record in 2021 and 1-11 in 2022 might make the decision easier.