Northwestern hires former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate athletic department
Written by B87FM on August 5, 2023
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Northwestern has hired former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to lead an investigation into the culture of its athletic department and its anti-hazing procedures following allegations of abusive behavior and racism within the football program and other teams.
Lynch, who served as attorney general from 2015 to 2017 under former President Barack Obama, will begin her review immediately, the school announced Tuesday. She will seek input from faculty, staff, students and alumni. The university announced no timetable for the investigation but said the results will be made public, unlike those of a previous investigation commissioned by the school.
“Hazing has absolutely no place at Northwestern. Period,” Northwestern President Michael Schill said in a statement.
“I am determined that with the help of Attorney General Lynch, we will become a leader in combating the practice of hazing in intercollegiate athletics and a model for other universities. We will provide all of our students with the resources and support they need and do whatever is necessary to protect their safety and ensure that our athletics program remains one we can all be proud of.”
Athletic Director Derrick Gragg said his department welcomes the investigation, calling it “a critical tool in identifying the additional steps Northwestern can take to eradicate hazing.”
“By making the results of her review public, we hope our entire community will be better informed and guided as we all work to address this critical issue in college athletics,” he said.
Attorneys representing athletes suing Northwestern blasted it as a publicity stunt and questioned whether the previous investigation that led to longtime football coach Pat Fitzgerald’s firing was thorough enough.
“We have to wonder if this is nothing more than an effort to counteract negative press, and more importantly, the growing number of former Northwestern football players filing lawsuits against the University,” attorneys Ben Crump, Steve Levin and Margaret Battersby Black said. “The University’s top priority should have been, and should be, doing right by the victims of these despicable acts and eradicating hazing from their campus. And they can start by being transparent and releasing the full report from the first investigation to the public.”
Lynch, who works for the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, was hired in November by the Boston Bruins to investigate the NHL team’s player-vetting process after it signed prospect Mitchell Miller and then rescinded his contract offer. Miller had his draft rights relinquished by Arizona for bullying a Black classmate with developmental disabilities in middle school.
Lynch is representing the NFL in Brian Flores’ race discrimination lawsuit. She also oversaw the sprawling investigation of international soccer that was unsealed in 2015 and led to the removal of a generation of soccer leaders in North and South America, and Switzerland-based FIFA and UEFA.
Northwestern is facing lawsuits from multiple former football players as well as one from a former volleyball player who says she was physically harmed during a hazing situation and mistreated by coach Shane Davis. Attorneys representing the former Northwestern athletes have said more lawsuits will be filed.
Fitzgerald — the program’s winningest coach and a star linebacker for the Wildcats in the 1990s — was fired by Schill on July 10 after initially being suspended two weeks following an investigation by attorney Maggie Hickey of law firm ArentFox Schiff that found hazing within the program and “significant opportunities” for the coaching staff to know about it. He was replaced an interim basis by David Braun, who was hired as defensive coordinator six months earlier.
Baseball coach Jim Foster was fired July 13 amid allegations of a toxic culture that included bullying and abusive behavior. Assistant Brian Anderson, a former major leaguer who won a World Series ring with the Chicago White Sox in 2005, took over on an interim basis.
Northwestern said following Hickey’s investigation the football team would no longer hold training camp in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as it did for years and would have someone not affiliated with the program monitor the locker room.
The school said at the time it would require annual anti-hazing training for coaches, staff members and athletes with an emphasis on reporting options and the responsibility to report as well as discipline. Other measures include creating an online tool for athletes to report hazing anonymously.
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