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NU coach Pat Fitzgerald expected to testify Friday at NLRB hearing

Updated: February 20, 2014 10:44PM



Throughout the past three-days hearing between the College Athletes Players Association and Northwestern University, much has been alleged by both sides about the relationship between Wildcats players and coaches.

The hearing officer, whose responsibility is to compile the record but not make a final decision, has even called into question the standing of CAPA’s argument because it fails establish the relationship between players and coaches.

But many questions on that matter are expected to be answered Friday when the hearing continues. The Sun-Times first reported early Thursday afternoon that the tentative plan is for the university to call coach Pat Fitzgerald as a witness.

Logistically, it’s unclear in what order the university intends to call its witnesses on Friday. While university officials who spoke after Thursday’s proceedings would not comment on the potential of Fitzgerald’s testimony, they did verify that a number of witnesses could be called.

One of those witnesses will be Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Chris Watson. He was present at the Dirksen Federal Building Thursday afternoon.

In this hearing testimonies have ranged in duration from a few hours to an entire day of proceedings. So even if Fitzgerald does not testify on Thursday, it could be for logistical reasons and does not rule out the possibility of his testimony some time next week.

During his testimony former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter alleged a litany of misgivings by the university, the football program and Fitzgerald.

Among those include the limitation of his freedom of speech, obligatory hours beyond that of the 20-hour weekly NCAA mandated limited, limitation of his influence on the way the program is run and concerns about injury prevention.

“The last few days have been very solid,” CAPA President Ramogi Huma said. “The Labor Board is going to be looking at specific things. I know there’s a lot of information.

“At the end of the day, they’re spending plenty of hours in their sport, there’s plenty of control exerted on them as football players. There’s a lot of different issues the Labor Board is going to look at and I think a lot of those points have are becoming vivid.”

While the university has called several members of the athletic department who have been able to speak on specific issues, Colter has been the only witness to testify with direct knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the football team.

That could drive the potential for the university to call Fitzgerald.

While the university has presented a strong case regarding the academic initiatives and philosophies in place for athletes, its attorneys have yet to disprove the idea that football takes up the overwhelming majority of players’ time.

Moreover, Colter suggested that by playing football his academic potential was limited and stated he had to stop pursuing pre-med requirements because of football.

Fitzgerald is likely to attempt to refute that, citing that he has moved practices to the morning so that his players can pursue the full compliment of courses offered at the university.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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