April 20, 2024

Big Ten Media Days 2023: David Braun challenges Northwestern team ahead of season upended by hazing scandal

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Interim Northwestern coach David Braun is charged with navigating the Wildcats through a rocky situation after Pat Fitzgerald was fired July 11 amid hazing allegations surrounding the program. Hired initially as defensive coordinator after last working at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, Braun has “challenged” Northwestern players, who chose not to be represented at Wednesday’s event in Indianapolis, to use the circumstances surrounding the program as motivation to be better themselves.

“The first thing I told them was that it was my responsibility moving forward to give them clarity and direction,” Braun said. “It was my intent to support and serve them moving forward. And I challenged the group. A lot of people have been impacted by the decisions made over the past couple of weeks. Those guys in the facility are going through a lot. 

“We have an opportunity to either run from that or one to truly stare that adversity down and go attack opportunity in the fall to make it an incredible story that truly shows what this team is all about,” he continued. “I have challenged them with that, and I can say they have responded to that in an inspiring fashion.” 

Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Northwestern in recent weeks amid the fallout of hazing allegations, the fourth of which comes from former quarterback Lloyd Yates. The lawsuit filed on his behalf claims Northwestern assistants were “ran” by Wildcats players “on more than one occasion,” noting a specific instance that occurred in front of the entire team and coaching staff sometime between Fall 2015-16. 

Attorney Ben Crump said in a press conference Monday that the lawsuit seeks “the eradication of physical, psychological and sexual hazing in college sports.” Crump added that he plans to file more than 30 additional individual lawsuits in the coming months.

Braun declined to speak on the situation Wednesday, but expressed trust in university leadership.

“I am grateful to the university leadership and [Northwestern AD] Dr. Derrick Gragg for entrusting me with leading this program moving forward,” Braun said. “The circumstances surrounding my family and I’s opportunity in being elevated to interim coach were not a dream-like scenario, but they have crystalized our family’s purpose. [My wife] Kristin and I truly believe football is the ultimate vehicle to have a positive impact on young men.

“I fully trust our university is going through a process and will make decisions on the facts. What I can speak to is how proud I am of the way our team has come together with all the stuff swirling around,” he continued. “There is absolute resolve and confidence within the leadership of our team.”

Northwestern kicks off the 2023 season Sept. 3 at Rutgers. Kick is slated for noon ET. 

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