Home UVA wideout Malik Washington, a Northwestern transfer, ‘passing’ on comment on hazing story

UVA wideout Malik Washington, a Northwestern transfer, ‘passing’ on comment on hazing story

Chris Graham
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UVA wideout Malik Washington catches a pass in spring practice. Photo: UVA Athletics

Malik Washington led the Northwestern football program – yes, that Northwestern football program – in receptions and receiving yards in 2022 before transferring to Virginia for his grad senior season.

Washington, a 5’9”, 190-pound Lawrenceville, Ga., native, is, not surprisingly, not at all interested in weighing in on the upheaval at his alma mater, where the head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, was fired on Monday upon the completion of an investigation into the alleged systematic sexualized hazing of Wildcat players.

“He’s passing on media regarding that,” a Virginia Athletics spokesman commented on Washington’s behalf on Tuesday.

Which is, yes, totally understandable, given what we know from the school’s own investigative report, and from additional reporting by The Daily Northwestern, the school newspaper, into the allegations, which are explosive, damning and criminal.

A former player told the school paper that much of the hazing involved a practice called “running,” in which a player targeted for punishment would be restrained in a darkened room by eight to ten teammates wearing “Purge”-like masks, who would then dry-hump the victim.

The player said the “running” punishment was common in training camp in the summer and later in the season, around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Other hazing included a ritual called the “carwash,” in which some players stood naked at the entrance to the showers, forcing those who passed by them to rub up against them, forced naked bear crawls and naked slingshots, and quarterback-center exchanges in which both players, typically freshmen, were required to be naked.

“It’s done under this smoke and mirror of, Oh, this is team bonding, but no, this is sexual abuse,” the player said, according to the Daily Northwestern report.

Fitzgerald, in a statement to ESPN on his dismissal, insisted that he “had no knowledge whatsoever of any form of hazing within the Northwestern Football Program,” which strains credulity in light of a revelation from ESPN reporter Adam Rittenberg, who said a player sent him a screenshot of a locker room whiteboard which had a number of punishments written on them.

The punishments on the locker room whiteboard would seem to suggest that Fitzgerald would have had to have known, and his defense – that he just didn’t know – would suggest that he was then just somehow comically unaware of awful ritualistic things going on literally under his nose.

Fitzgerald, in the statement to ESPN, made clear that his next step is lawyering up, so this story isn’t going away anytime soon.

Northwestern, for its part, is reportedly moving in the direction of elevating defensive coordinator David Braun to be the interim head coach, and maintaining the rest of Fitzgerald’s assistant coaches and support staff, which almost makes sense.

Where it doesn’t: if the head coach is supposed to have known what was going on, and did nothing to stop it, how are the other adults in the room who would also have had to have known able to escape responsibility for not taking action?

The lack of more thorough action seems to presage more change in the offing at Northwestern – school president Michael Shill, for instance, whose original response to the investigatory report was to hand down a meek two-week suspension for Fitzgerald, and now is of the mindset that leaving the other coaches who did nothing in charge, might want to be polishing up his resume.

Bringing this back home as we wrap this up, I doubt that I’m the only one who would love to know what Malik Washington, now at Virginia, and expected to be a major contributor at wideout and on special teams, thinks of what is doing down at his old stomping grounds.

There’s a team media opportunity later this month. He might be ready to weigh in by then.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].