I want to share my thoughts on the recent troubles at Northwestern University, specifically the hazing reports that cost a head coach his job and has brought negative publicity to the university. I think many of you will be surprised at my position on this, but maybe not.
First of all there is, I believe, some confusion in the media about the hazing that took place here. This was not the typical college fraternity hazing where some poor kid agrees to drink a half gallon of vodka and dies just so that he can be a part of an organization that just tried to kill him. No, this was what I am calling locker room hazing where nobody died or was seriously injured.
Allegedly, the Northwestern football team upperclassmen verbally insulted the new players, pretended to have sex with them, and generally treated them like sub humans all as part of a ritualistic event that, in their minds, made the team closer. Apparently not all the players felt this was a warm welcome to the team and have now sued Northwestern for damages.
The initial response by NU was to suspend the head football coach, above, Pat Fitzgerald for two weeks. Their investigation into the allegations found that he had no idea this was being done and in fact he had more than one meeting with the team to tell them that hazing was not acceptable at Northwestern. Then the story broke in the student newspaper along with more ex-players coming forward to tell their story and all hell broke loose in the local and national media.
The result was that the university president decided that he had to fire Fitzgerald for cause which is important because that means they don't have to pay out his contract. The reason he gave was that as head coach he should have known this was happening and so he is responsible for it. Interestingly not one college president gets fired when a fraternity hazing cost a kid their life even though, using the same logic, they should have known this was going on also.
In college football the guy with the least amount of interaction with players is the head coach. The assistants are the ones in daily contact with players and if anyone should have known this was happening, it is them. And yet not only did none of them get fired also, but one of them got promoted to the head coach position. This makes no sense.
Hazing in locker rooms has been going on since the time of gladiators. If you play organized sports you know you are going to get hazed as the new guy. Jackie Robinson was insanely hazed by teammates, and not in a friendly, welcome to the team, way. In his own locker room he was called a nigger by his teammates. They encouraged opposing teams to throw at him when he was batting. Yet somehow he survived and went on to have a hall of fame career.
So who, or what, is to blame here? I believe that the parents of the kids who were hazed and complained are the ones at fault. They went out of their way to raise weak minded kids. Yes I said weak minded kids.
Kids aren't allowed to play pick-up football or baseball games anymore because the parents think it is both, too dangerous, and because they don't want their child to have his feelings hurt by being the last kid picked when choosing sides. They want them to play in leagues where each kid gets a participation trophy for goodness sakes. When I was a kid if I got one of them I'd throw it on the ground and walk away I would be so disgusted.
It is better for kids to learn when they are young that life isn't fair and sometimes, someone, is going to be better at something than you are. That's ok because there will be something else that you will be better at than they are. That is why we have some people as accountants and others in marketing. We all have different skills.
Learning this on the playground at an early age prepares you for life ahead. Clearly these litigants did not play sandlot games growing up because they would have already had thick skins by college. I was one of the littlest kids on my block growing up. I played pick-up games in all sports my whole childhood. I got into fights every week with one of the other kids for various reasons. I can tell you that I got more bloody noses than I gave but guess what, I got up and went back to being the best player on the playground, usually. That was my way of getting even. Beating them.
As I got older and started playing in organized sports I gave out my share of verbal abuse to teammates and believe me I got it back just as good. Later in life teasing, taunting, and busting chops around a sporting event I played in, or at work for that matter, became a way of life for me and my cohorts. Nobody thought twice about getting or given each other a shot once in a while. It is what we did, and still do.
By all accounts, and by my interactions with him, Fitzgerald is a good human. Nobody loved Northwestern more then he did. He would end every interview by saying, "Go Cats!" Firing him was the wrong thing to do and for the wrong reason. In the same vein, suspending him for only two weeks was wrong also. He should have been suspended for the first three games. Suspending him in the off season did not send the proper message but missing out on coaching games does.
As for the kids who are suing, grow the hell up young man. If you think this was tough wait until you are working in the real world and your boss thinks that his cousin Ernie should have your job and he fires you because he can. That'll get your attention. You were getting a free ride to one of the top universities in the world because you could play a sport better than someone else and yet you are so weak minded that your teammates teasing you broke you? If you worked for me, and I read you were suing over this, I would fire you on the spot because I was not getting the quality of character I thought I was getting.
This is stupid and tragic. If they fired Fitz because he sucked as a coach, I would agree. Getting fired for this is just wrong.