The Northwestern football program parted ways with head coach Pat Fitzgerald following disturbing allegations of hazing, but coaches on the staff are showing their support with shirts that are bound to lead to backlash.
Just weeks after Fitzgerald was let go by the program, Northwestern coaches were spotted at practice wearing shirts that said "Cats Against the World" with the number 51 below. The number was Fitzgerald's when he was a player for the Wildcats, implying that the coaching staff is still behind their former head coach. Matt Zahn with CBS Chicago tweeted a picture of the shirts, with current Northwestern student Bradley Locker being the first to notice them.
A clear shot of the "Cats Against the World" shirt that some Northwestern coaches/staff members were wearing at practice, with Pat Fitzgerald's old jersey #51 on them (as @Bradley_Locker first noted)@cbschicago pic.twitter.com/3fvnc0GEND
— Matt Zahn (@mattzahnsports) August 9, 2023
The shirts led to significant backlash on social media, specifically in the replies and quote tweets to both Zahn and Locker's posts. Many of the replies suggested that the shirts were a bad look for the program, especially considering the gravity of the allegations against the Northwestern football team.
Fitzgerald was originally suspended for the first two games of the 2023 season following an investigation by the school into the hazing allegations. However, following additional details and accounts of the incidents from former players by the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, the school decided to fire the program's head coach.
Prior to his 17 years as head coach, Fitzgerald was a star player for the Wildcats. The former linebacker played for Northwestern from 1993 to 1996, earning two consensus All-American selections as well as being a two-time recipient of both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award. Following his playing career, Fitzgerald quickly got into coaching with brief stints in Maryland, Colorado, and Idaho before returning to Northwestern as a defensive backs coach in 2001.
Northwestern is expected to have a down year in a competitive Big Ten, but the bigger story this offseason is how the football program will recover from the tarnished reputation of its most distinguished alumnus.
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