It doesn’t matter if you love or hate what has become of Michigan football this season, or if the drama surrounding them has made you forget about Mel Tucker and Michigan State, we can all agree that they both share the common denominator of their own drama. But that doesn’t mean they were the only thorn in the Big Ten’s side.
Misery loves company and let’s not forget that Northwestern started this party.
The Wildcats’ 23-15 win over Purdue on Saturday means they are headed to a bowl game to complete the most tumultuous season in Northwestern history. They will also do so with David Braun at the helm, as the interim coach has been appointed permanently.
“Upon his arrival at Northwestern, I quickly identified that Coach Braun embodied the values of our athletic department: respect, integrity, service and excellence,” Northwestern athletic director Derrick Gragg said in a statement. “It was the right decision to hire him as the interim leader and I congratulate coach Braun on being named the head coach of our football program. He has earned this position. Coach Braun assembled the team under very adverse circumstances. He earned the respect of the student-athletes, the staff, parents, alumni and our supporters.”
I don’t think Gragg understands what “adverse circumstances” means. Because like Michigan and Michigan State, Northwestern did it to themselves.
Before anyone knew who Connor Stallions was, before Jim Harbaugh was suspended, before Sherrone Moore cried on TVand long before Michigan State put Adolf Hitler on a video boardwas the college football world focused on Pat Fitzgerald and Evanston, Ill.
Fitzgerald was fired earlier this season “in the wake of a hazing and abuse scandal that engulfed the athletic department.” reports the Associated Press. Depending on who you believe, Fitzgerald either knew nothing or encouraged the performance as an alum and former star of the team. There was reports from the players at Northwestern is going after the whistleblower and members of the student newspaper staff who broke this story, as former players took to social media to support Fitzgerald. There were allegations about the cheerleading and baseball teams too.
“I was very clear that at Northwestern the well-being of our students comes first,” Michael Schill, president of Northwest, said of the decision to hire Braun. “It is only by prioritizing our students’ health, safety and well-being that we can enable excellence on the field, excellence in the classroom, that we can encourage the personal and intellectual growth that is fundamental to our mission as one of the largest universities in the world. Anyone who has heard or spoken with Coach Braun knows that he has embodied these principles in just a short time since arriving at Northwestern.”
While Braun is new to Evanston after being hired in the offseason, he inherited Fitzgerald’s program, as the school decided to keep the staff in place after the firing. This is an important fact to remember as some of them containers wore “Cats against the world” shirts – with Fitzgerald’s no. 51 of his playing days — as they tried to turn him into a victim the same way Michigan did with Harbaugh.
So as we head into the final weekend of the regular season, most of the nation’s attention will be focused on what will happen with Michigan and how their situation will play out. But aside from the events in Ann Arbor, Tucker’s firing in East Lansing, and an alleged conference-wide sign-stealing scandal that hung like a cloud over the Big Ten, let’s not forget that the bad weather began with ‘ A tornado from the northern suburbs of Chicago.