Northwestern is expected to remove the interim tag and make David Braun the team’s head football coach beyond this season, sources briefed on the situation confirmed Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Wildcats have gone 5-5 under Braun this season and beaten Big Ten foes Minnesota, Maryland and Wisconsin.
- Northwestern initially hired Braun as its defensive coordinator in January, but he became the interim coach when Pat Fitzgerald was fired in July amid fallout from the university’s investigation — which began in late 2022 — into hazing allegations within the football program.
- Braun inherited a team that went 1-11 in 2022, marking the Wildcats’ lowest win total since 1989.
Is this a surprise?
When Braun and Northwestern beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday to get win No. 5, this felt inevitable. It became impossible to deny the massive improvement the program has made under Braun this season. With Purdue and Illinois to close the season, it’s not unreasonable the Wildcats could get to 7-5 this year.
For a long time, the conventional wisdom was that only Fitzgerald could keep Northwestern as a winning program because he was the only one to sustain such success and was willing to stick around. He got longer and bigger contracts, a new practice facility and became one of the most influential people at the school. It turns out an assistant coach hired in January has the ability to win at Northwestern, too.
There was significant interest from coaches in the Northwestern job. It’s a Big Ten gig with good facilities, reasonable expectations and potentially a new renovated stadium coming. The school could’ve tried to reach higher in hiring a new coach, and the track record of promoted interim head coaches is mixed. But it’s sticking with Braun, and the job he’s done this season can’t be denied. He’d never coached an FBS game before he became interim head coach. Now he’s got the full-time gig. — Chris Vannini, senior college football writer
Northwestern’s investigation began following an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint. On July 7, the school released a vague executive summary and suspended Fitzgerald for two weeks without pay. Following The Daily Northwestern’s publication of allegations the next day and growing public backlash, Northwestern president Michael Schill fired Fitzgerald three days later. The school also fired baseball coach Jim Foster on July 13 over abusive behavior.
Last month, Fitzgerald filed a lawsuit against the university over his firing, alleging he and the school had orally agreed that his suspension would be his only punishment for the hazing allegations. Fitzgerald’s complaint seeks more than $130 million in compensatory damages, along with additional punitive damages.
‘There’s a significance to ritual’: How a hazing culture evolved at Northwestern’s Camp Kenosha
(Photo: David Banks / USA Today)