Northwestern has opened an investigation into an allegation of bullying at its football program, the school said in a statement to ESPN on Wednesday.
The school was made aware of the allegation after the 2022 season, the statement said. The university has hired an independent attorney, Maggie Hickey of the law firm ArentFox Schiff, to lead the investigation. Northwestern said Hickey’s investigation will likely include interviews with players, coaches and staff.
“While we do not yet know if the allegations are true, university policy prohibits bullying and we take these allegations seriously,” Northwestern’s statement said. “The health, safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. The investigation is at a very early stage and will be strictly fair to everyone in the process. She will focus on gathering facts and not jumping to conclusions. Northwestern strongly supports members of our community who raise concerns and encourages everyone to report those concerns to the university.”
According to a source, sporting director Derrick Gragg briefed players and coaches on the investigation on Wednesday.
Northwestern did not specify whether the allegation came from a player or from involved players, coaches or staff. The school said its athletic department will cooperate fully with Hickey during the investigation.
“The purpose of Ms. Hickey’s investigation is to determine the underlying truth of the allegations — including the scope of potential bullying activities or harmful culture,” the statement concluded.
Northwestern’s season ended in late November with a 1-11 record, their worst since a winless 1989. Coach Pat Fitzgerald, a former National Defensive Player of the Year at the school, has led the program since 2006.