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College Football

If It’s Northwestern Against The World, Lay The Points

5:31 PM EDT on August 9, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JULY 26: A Northwestern Wildcats helmet is seen at Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium on July 26, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Northwestern's football team held their first open practice since head coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired in disgrace after presiding over what the Daily Northwestern reported was a deeply ingrained culture of hazing. One might assume that the Wildcats, coming off of a 1-11 season and still looking for their first win on American soil since October 2021, would surely take the opportunity signal an eagerness to move on. Given the chance to turn a new leaf, how would the Wildcats respond? The grim answer: by circling the wagons.

According to reporters who attended the practice, several staffers were wearing shirts with Fitzgerald's old number on it, a group that includes offensive coordinator and architect of the nation's fourth-worst scoring offense Mike Bajakian, as well as at least one player. Here is the clearest photo of the shirts.

These shirts are so embarrassing! Northwestern football is not good enough to have enemies! Not only has "the world" spent years running up the score on the Cats, but adopting a Nobody believes in us posture is an absurd pivot when the negative press about Northwestern all centers on internal rot, not anything foisted upon the program by outsiders. All the people detailing ritual coerced sex acts and racial abuse and suing the university for covering them up are former Northwestern football players. "The world" has nothing to do with this.

Reporters asked Northwestern players about the hazing scandal and they refused to address questions about it, to the point that defensive back Rod Heard II wouldn't even comment on hazing in sports in the abstract, saying, "I don't think we want to comment on that." Turtling up and refusing to answer any questions about the state of the program is somewhat understandable, but it is galling when several coaches and staffers do so while publicly offering their support to the now-fired coach who is accused of covering up so much of the alleged abuse. Players said the shirts were a vaguely defined "togetherness" thing (against who?), and interim coach David Braun only framed the shirts as a free-speech issue. I am not a lawyer, but this seems ill-advised given the multiple lawsuits in play.

The spectacle was so stupid and embarrassing that Northwestern AD Derrick Gragg, of "Women: Our Greatest Distraction" fame, had to step in and apologize.

I am extremely disappointed that a few members of our football program staff decided to wear "Cats Against the World" t-shirts. Neither I nor the University was aware that they owned or would wear these shirts today. The shirts are inappropriate, offensive and tone deaf. Let me be crystal clear: hazing has no place at Northwestern, and we are committed to do whatever is necessary to address hazing-related issues, including thoroughly investigating any incidents or allegations of hazing or any other misconduct.

ESPN

Gragg, translated: You dipshits, we're being sued.

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