Why are we still hearing stories of hazing in the world of sports? This time it happened at Northwestern University, one of the nation’s most prestigious schools.
What we learned this week is that football’s meathead culture is still out there. What we learned is that the culture has been prevalent at Northwestern for years and it led to the firing of head coach Pat Fitzgerald on Monday.
Back in the day, hazing almost seemed to be accepted. More recently it seemed like the behavior was rejected. My thought now is that if it has been ongoing at an institution like Northwestern, it is still likely ongoing elsewhere. And that is tragic.
Apparently, we haven’t come too far.
I was a mere child back in 1968 when I read a best-selling book written by Green Bay Packers lineman Jerry Kramer, He vocalized how the great Vince Lombardi drove his players to the edge to win championships. I remember reading of hazing incidents within the Packers.
Fitzgerald never took action to stop the practice of hazing within his program. He also never led his program to a championship. In fact, his program went 4-20 over the past two seasons. Using championships as a (poor) excuse. Northwestern punched above its weight playing for the Big Ten title twice since 2018. It also fell to 4-20 over the last two seasons. Sounds like a program divided.
Judging from reports coming out after the school conducted an investigation, Fitzgerald allegedly oversaw a program in which hazing was normalized. Young players were supposedly “dry humped” in the dark by upperclassmen.
What happened at Northwestern has some similarity with what occurred at Penn State in that there was a systemic cultural issue and a moral failing.
If you remember, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted of abusing young boys. The reputations of legendary head coach Joe Paterno and several of his assistants were dragged into the mud, the implication being they should have corrected the culture and protected the young boys.
What happened at Northwestern was not only unnecessary, it was preventable. There were clearly warning signs at a minimum. In every case, the meathead culture prevailed.
Fitzgerald’s defense is claiming he did not know about the hazing despite overseeing the program for nearly two decades. There are reports that a whiteboard in the locker room detailed planned hazing. School president has admitted that 11 players corroborated such incidents.
Again, why is stuff like this still going on? Why? Does it make a team better? How can a culture of disrespect make a team better?