An attorney for former Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald urged a judge Tuesday to move up the trial in a dispute over his firing, saying he can't get another major job until he puts a hazing scandal behind him.
“It has decimated his career,” lawyer Dan Webb said.
Fitzgerald was initially suspended for two weeks and then fired last year after 17 years as head coach of the Wildcats. Northwestern said he had a responsibility to know that hazing was occurring and should have stopped it.
Fitzgerald denies wrongdoing. He responded by suing the school for $130 million, claiming he was wrongly fired.
A Cook County judge has set an April 2025 trial date, but Webb wants it moved to December 2024.
“If we get a trial in December and he's exonerated, he will still have January to get a coaching position” elsewhere, Webb said. “But if he misses three seasons in a row, it's going to be significantly different.”
Judge Daniel Kubasiak acknowledged that timing is important to Fitzgerald, but he added: "I'm not sure I can necessarily allow that to dictate."
Reid Schar, an attorney representing Northwestern, said dates and deadlines in the case so far seem to be aggressive. He noted that documents number in the thousands.
Fitzgerald has “chosen to pursue this litigation,” Schar said. “And so we have to pick a schedule that's actually achievable, not one that's defined by what he might want to do for the rest of his life.”
The judge set a status hearing for April 2. He hopes the lawsuit can be settled.
“I don't think any party wins if this matter goes to trial,” Kubasiak said.
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