September 30, 2023

Northwestern names defensive coordinator David Braun as interim head coach

Northwestern named David Braun as interim head coach for the 2023 college football season on Friday.

Braun has only been on the Northwestern campus for the past seven months. Pat Fitzgerald hired Braun as his defensive coordinator in January, but now Braun will take on an even bigger role following Fitzgerald’s firing that followed an investigation into hazing allegations in the Wildcats program.

Braun spent the past four seasons as a defensive coordinator with North Dakota State, helping the Bison win national FCS titles in 2019 and 2021. In 2021, he was named FCS Coordinator of the Year. He has never coached at the FBS level. Prior to his time at NDSU, Braun was a defensive assistant at Northern Iowa (FCS), UC Davis (FCS), Winona State (Division II), and Culver-Stockton (NAIA).

Braun and the rest of the staff are tasked with trying to keep the roster together with the season less than two months away. While the transfer portal windows are closed, the dismissal of a coach opens a 30-day transfer window for players at an affected school. So far, no players from the North West have decided to enter the transfer portal, although several recruits have backed away from verbal commitments.

According to multiple reports, Northwestern is expected to retain Fitzgerald’s assistant coaches and other staff for the 2023 season. The Wildcats are slated to begin preseason training in August before opening their season at Rutgers on September 3.

Braun’s appointment as interim head coach comes four days after Fitzgerald was fired by school principal Michael Schill. Schill had suspended Fitzgerald for two weeks but reversed course and fired the longtime head coach Monday after details of alleged hazing within the Northwestern football program emerged in a story by The Daily Northwestern.

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: General view of a Northwestern Wildcats helmet during the third quarter against the Auburn Tigers during the Vrbo Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 1, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Defense Coordinator David Braun will reportedly take over as Northwestern’s head football coach after the university fired Pat Fitzgerald. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Northwestern received an anonymous complaint alleging the allegations in November and subsequently hired an outside law firm to investigate the claims. Last Friday, Northwestern released a summary report of the investigation and, among other things, announced Fitzgerald’s suspension.

Investigators found no “sufficient evidence” that Fitzgerald or members of his coaching staff knew about the hazing. However, researchers concluded that there were “significant opportunities” for the coaches to “discover and report hazing behavior.” Northwestern has only released a summary of the investigation with very few details.

An anonymous former Northwestern player described the alleged hazing practices to The Daily Northwestern in a report published the day after the summary was released. The player characterized the alleged hazing as “despicable and inhumane behavior” and claimed that Fitzgerald knew about and even encouraged the ongoing hazing.

On Monday, Schill announced Fitzgerald’s resignation following “a difficult and complex evaluation” of his “original disciplinary decision.”

“Since Friday, I keep going back to what we can reasonably expect from our head coaches, our faculty, and our campus leaders. And that’s why I made this decision,” said Schill.

“The head coach is ultimately responsible for his team’s culture. The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly no secret within the program, giving Coach Fitzgerald a chance to learn what was happening. Anyway, the culture in the Northwest football, while incredible in some ways, was broken in others.”

Fitzgerald, via a statement to ESPN earlier this weeksaid he was unaware of the alleged incidents, was surprised by his firing and is “taking necessary steps to protect my rights in accordance with the law”.

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