Northwestern is naming defensive coordinator David Braun its interim head football coach, according to multiple reports, three days after firing longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald due to several reports of hazing within the program.
Braun is being elevated to the interim head coach position six months after he was hired as the program’s defensive coordinator. He spent the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator of North Dakota State, the Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse that won the 2019 and 2021 FCS national championships during his tenure.
After playing defensive line at Division II Winona State, Braun coached at his alma mater before stops at Culver-Stockton, UC Davis and Northern Iowa.
Braun will overtake the football program after Fitzgerald spent the past 17 seasons as the Wildcats’ head coach. The winningest coach in the program’s history, Fitzgerald had been suspended for two weeks without pay after an independent investigation found hazing claims “largely supported by the evidence gathered during the investigation.” On Saturday, in a story published in The Daily Northwestern, a former Northwestern football player alleged some of the hazing was sexual in nature and provided disturbing details, such as claiming upperclassmen punished younger players who made mistakes in games and practices. The ritual was called “running.”
The independent investigation “did not uncover evidence pointing to specific misconduct by any individual football player or coach” but found that “participation in or knowledge of the hazing activities was widespread across football players,” but Fitzgerald said in a statement Friday he “was not aware of the alleged incidents” in the reports.
Still, Northwestern University president Michael Schill fired Fitzgerald on Monday, as he said “the head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team.”
“The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to learn what was happening. Either way, the culture in Northwestern Football, while incredible in some ways, was broken in others,” Schill said in a statement.
Braun will take over a program that went 1-11 last season and ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring offense and turnover margin. The Wildcats were one of four FBS schools to win one game in 2022, along with Colorado, South Florida and UMass.
Since Fitzgerald was fired, football players have the opportunity to enter the transfer portal, which could drastically change the Northwestern roster less than 50 days before the season starts. The Wildcats begin their 2023 season Sept. 3 at Big Ten foe Rutgers.
Contributing: Scooby Axson and Nicole Poell
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Northwestern naming new DC David Braun interim football coach