Northwestern fires three assistant football coaches

Changes to the coaching staff seemed imminent after Northwestern finished off a 1-11 season with a lopsided loss to Illinois on Saturday.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced Tuesday three coaches will not be retained, including two who have been with the program for more than a decade. The coaches dismissed were defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil, defensive line coach Marty Long and receivers coach Dennis Springer.

There was also a report saying leading receiver Malik Washington has entered the transfer portal.

O'Neil had a tough assignment replacing defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz when he retired two years ago. O'Neil spent the previous 10 years working in the NFL, serving as DC for both the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers for a total of three seasons. The Wildcats ranked 12th in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 11th in total defense this season.

Long had been on the staff since 2008 and coached six of the school's 10 all-time sack leaders, including No. 1 Joe Gaziano. Springer had been on the job since 2011.

"Our entire football family is grateful for what these three men brought to our program on and off the field," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "Ultimately, these difficult decisions were made with the intention of putting our team in the best position for success on game day moving forward. The process to fill these important roles on our staff will begin immediately."

No word yet on whether there will be more changes. This was Northwestern's worst season since going 0-11 in 1989 under coach Francis Peay.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

NU should give Fitzgerald a chance to figure out flaws

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