Fortuna Files: Northwestern steps in it (again), Gene Smith calls it a career, and more realignment dominoes begin to fall
The 'Cats can't get out of their own way. An Ohio State giant is retiring. Pac-12 presidents love pointing the finger. Plus, what are the potential options for Oregon State and Washington State?
EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern held on-campus media availability on Wednesday for the first time since Pat Fitzgerald was fired, and after an underwhelming performance from all involved, you have to wonder what kind of advice the school is paying all of its outside counsel and crisis management advisers for.
Start with the shirts, spotted at practice, the first 50 minutes of which was open to the media. You have probably seen these shirts by now. They read “Cats Against the World.” They have the number 51 on them, which was the Wildcats jersey number of none other than Fitzgerald, who was fired from his head coaching job on July 10 in light of a hazing scandal.
They are also, apparently, not new. One player was spotted wearing the shirt at a gathering at receivers coach Armon Binns’ house last month. A source told The Inside Zone that players have worn those shirts inside the facility for several weeks now.
Interim head coach David Braun was asked multiple times Wednesday about the shirts, and if he thought they were tone deaf. Both times, Braun said he was not in the business of censoring anyone’s free speech.
When three players came in to speak minutes later, receiver Bryce Kirtz attributed the shirts to Braun’s mantra of sticking together, with linebacker Bryce Gallagher adding that the only people they are worried about are those who are in the Walter Athletics Center.
Not even two hours after everyone spoke, athletic director Derrick Gragg, who was spotted at practice, issued a statement expressing his disappointment in the shirts, calling them “inappropriate, offensive and tone deaf.”
That was far from the only confusion during what should have been a fairly routine mid-week camp check-in.