Support for Northwestern Student-Athletes
Dear Northwestern community,
As you are no doubt aware, the last few weeks have been a very difficult and challenging time for our University. The investigation into allegations of hazing in our football program and the subsequent dismissal of former head coach Pat Fitzgerald have placed us and our athletic program in the national spotlight. This scrutiny and accompanying media criticism have been especially difficult for our student-athletes as they prepare for the start of the fall season and the coming academic year.
I have read and heard broad condemnations of our athletic program in articles, social media and press conferences. The picture painted by some of these commentators of our program, our student-athletes and the University itself is entirely inconsistent with the Northwestern we all know and love. While there is no doubt in my mind that shameful events did take place in the football program, I also know that the vast majority of our student-athletes — in football and in our other 18 D1 teams — are people of character who do amazing things both on the field and in the classroom. I am proud of them.
And make no mistake: our student-athletes are students first; that is why they came to Northwestern, one of the very best academic universities in the nation. Their academic achievements are inspiring. Nine Northwestern teams — field hockey, women's basketball, women's golf, women’s lacrosse, women's tennis, volleyball, men's golf, men's tennis and wrestling — all earned a perfect Academic Progress Rate (APR) score in the latest data released by the NCAA. No other Big Ten conference school matched that achievement.
The APR data is just one measure of the academic distinction of Wildcat student-athletes. Northwestern's 98% NCAA Graduation Success Rate led the Big Ten Conference for the 18th consecutive year and ranks in the Top 10 among all universities in the nation. Our student-athletes earned an incredible 312 Academic All-Big Ten honors throughout the 2022-23 academic year.
While maintaining this stellar academic record, our student-athletes have also excelled on the playing field. This past year, 18 student-athletes earned All-American honors, and 49 earned All-Conference recognition. Women’s lacrosse and softball won Big Ten titles, and lacrosse captured its eighth national championship. They are an exceptional, committed and talented group of people who make a vital contribution to Northwestern and to our reputation as one of the world’s very best universities.
One of the distinguishing features of Northwestern is our depth and breadth. We have amazing academics, research, creative and performing arts. Our D1 sports are intimately integrated into our student and alumni life and add to what makes us unique and wonderful. I am committed to supporting our student-athletes and to re-building any damage our athletic program may have experienced.
Part of that commitment is to protect our students’ safety and well-being. That commitment includes thoroughly investigating any instance or allegation of hazing or mistreatment. That commitment includes creating processes and safeguards so that what happened in football can never happen again at Northwestern. That commitment also includes celebrating, defending and caring for both students and staff who are unfairly implicated by a broad brush.
To our student-athletes: I wholeheartedly support you during this difficult time, and I am not alone. You are loved by thousands and thousands of Wildcat alumni, faculty, staff and administrators, many of whom have reached out over the past three weeks to show support. I am excited that you will be returning soon to feel that love and the warm embrace of a university that truly stands for the very best in athletics and academics.
And to the broader Northwestern community: please continue to support one another as we work to emerge from this a stronger University. Even if I am unable to individually answer each of your letters, they mean the world to me and to our students.