Intent on Coaching Again, Pat Fitzgerald Pushing for December Trial Date in Lawsuit Against Northwestern

Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald appears on “Chicago Tonight” in a file photo. (WTTW News)Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald appears on “Chicago Tonight” in a file photo. (WTTW News)

Former Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald is pushing for a December trial date in his wrongful termination lawsuit against the school, claiming he won’t be able to get another coaching job until he can “exonerate” himself after extensive hazing allegations led to his ouster.

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

During a virtual court hearing Tuesday morning, Fitzgerald’s attorney Dan Webb argued that the case would have to go to trial later this year in order for Fitzgerald to have any chance of getting a job during the next coaching cycle ahead of the 2025 college football season.

“He’s been told by all of his agents and his experts he will not work again in football until he gets a trial to exonerate him,” Webb said. “In December 2024 and January 2025, there will be decisions made on who is gonna coach in the 2025 season. So I was trying to rescue his ability to compete in 2025.”

Cook County Judge Daniel Kubasiak has set a trial date in April 2025 , but instead urged the parties to try and settle matters on their own, saying he believes this case is “clearly the type of matter that should be resolved between the parties.”

“From my perspective, and only from my perspective, I don’t think any party wins if this matter goes to trial,” he said.

Fitzgerald was initially suspended by the university for two weeks, and later fired, last July following reporting that a player said he’d seen “egregious and vile and inhumane behavior” as part of a yearslong hazing scandal that allegedly took place under Fitzgerald’s watch.

The player said some of that hazing involved coerced sexual acts — allegations that a second player also told The Daily Northwestern — and that Fitzgerald may have known that hazing took place.

Fitzgerald then filed suit against Northwestern and its president, Michael Schill, claiming that he’d been “wrongfully and illegally terminated.” He is seeking $130 million in damages.

Attorneys for Northwestern said even that April 2025 trial date would be “very aggressive.”

“(Fitzgerald) has chosen to pursue this litigation,” attorney Reid Schar, who represents the university, said during the hearing. “And so we have to pick a schedule that’s actually achievable, not one that’s defined by what he might want to do with the rest of his life, but one that’s actually achievable and fair to both parties.”

Fitzgerald has alleged the university illegally breached both his employment contract and an oral contract in which he agreed to the initial two-week suspension with the expectation that he wouldn’t face any additional discipline.

Since his termination, several football players have filed lawsuits against the university claiming they too were subjected to harassment. Fitzgerald has been named in some of those suits, with some players alleging he, Schill, the board of trustees and athletic director Derrick Gragg enabled and concealed sexual misconduct and racial discrimination as part of the hazing.

Fitzgerald has denied any wrongdoing.

After the suit was filed last year, Northwestern said in a statement that Fitzgerald was “responsible for the conduct of the program” and he “had the responsibility to know that hazing was occurring and to stop it. He failed to do so.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, Schar said he was most concerned with a May deadline for written documents to be produced, saying the university has already turned over some 700,000 pages to Webb and his staff.

Fitzgerald coached Northwestern for 17 seasons, amassing a 110–101 record during that time. Following his termination, he was replaced by David Braun, who led the Wildcats to an 8-5 record last fall and was named the 2023 Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors