Northwestern fires Jim O’Neil

By Logan Schiciano

Northwestern football has fired its defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, as well defensive line coach Marty Long and wide receivers coach Dennis Springer, the team announced Tuesday.

“These difficult decisions were made with the intention of putting our team in the best position for success on gameday moving forward. The process to fill these important roles in our staff will begin immediately,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a statement posted on the team’s social media.

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg broke the news shortly after 12 p.m. CST Tuesday. No announcements have been made about any other members of the Northwestern coaching staff.

Jim O’Neil departs after two seasons with the Wildcats. He came to Evanston after spending three years with the Las Vegas Raiders organization. He was the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers (2016) and Cleveland Browns (2014-2015). Northwestern allowed 29.6 points per game during his tenure.

Long joined the Wildcats prior to the 2008 season and coached six of NU’s top-10 all-time career sacks leaders. In 2018, his defensive line’s run defense ranked 26th in the nation and top three in fumbles recovered. Springer started at Northwestern in Jan. 2011 after spending time with the Indiana Hoosiers football program.

Northwestern concluded its 2022 season on Sunday with a 41-3 loss to in-state rival Illinois. The ‘Cats are 4-20 over the last two seasons – the worst two-year stretch for the program since 1989-90. NU has not won since it defeated Nebraska in the Aer Lingus Football Classic on Aug. 27 in Dublin, Ireland.

Inside NU reported earlier Tuesday that Northwestern Athletic Director Dr. Derrick Gragg sent an open letter to the school’s football program in which he said: “Coach Fitzgerald and his staff have already begun their evaluation of all aspects of the program as we look ahead to 2023 and I am confident that next year we will once again rise to our standard of excellence.”