Northwestern's turn at Big Ten Media Days is scheduled for Wednesday as the annual event kicks off, but the Wildcats won't have any player representatives in attendance amid the fallout from the hazing scandal that's rocked the university. Linebacker Bryce Gallagher, defensive back Rod Heard ll and wide receiver Bryce Kirtz released a joint statement on Tuesday announcing their absence.
"After talking with our parents, our teammates and coach [David] Braun, we have made the decision not to attend Big Ten Media Day," the statement read. "This was very difficult since we were excited about the opportunity to participate in this great Big Ten tradition, and to talk about the game we love and the season ahead. But given the recent events involving the Northwestern football program, we did not want our participation to be dominated by the hazing issue and steal focus away from football and the upcoming season."
The school has been embroiled in a hazing controversy that led to the firing of longtime coach and former Northwestern star linebacker. Braun, who was previously serving as Wildcats defensive coordinator after being hired to the position in January, was elevated to the interim head coach position following Fitzgerald's dismissal. Braun is still scheduled to be present on Wednesday.
Gallagher, Heard and Kirtz stand by their university in the midst of the scandal.
"We are proud members of the NU football program and want our on-field performance and off-field conduct to always reflect the values of the university and our fans," the statement read.
Fitzgerald is accused of running a program with culture that included various forms of abuse as part of the hazing. Several former Northwestern players, including former quarterback/wide receiver Lloyd Yates, Illinois, on Yates' behalf Monday claiming that Northwestern staff members were not only aware of hazing incidents but subjected to them as well. Crump said Monday that he plans to file up to 30 more lawsuits related to the scandal in the next few months.against the school for various alleged hazing incidents during Fitzgerald's tenure leading the program. Attorney Ben Crump filed a lawsuit in Cook County,
Big Ten Media Days takes place Wednesday and Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.