David Braun addresses reporters at the Big Ten Conference media days at Lucas Oil Stadium, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
CNN  — 

Speaking at the Big Ten football media days, Northwestern University interim head football coach David Braun declined Wednesday to address reporters questions about the hazing allegations in the university’s athletic program, saying he trusts the school will choose the right path forward.

Several former players are suing the school, claiming the university’s football program “has had longstanding issues involving hazing and bullying that takes on a sexual and/or racist tone.” At least one ex-player is also suing former head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

And last week, attorneys representing at least 15 former student athletes announced plans to sue the university over allegations its athletics department fostered a “toxic culture” that facilitated harassment and sexual abuse. At least one former volleyball player has also filed a lawsuit alleging hazing in that program, according to a copy of the civil action.

The issues with the school’s football program entered the national spotlight earlier this month after the student newspaper The Daily Northwestern cited several former players who spoke about hazing and racism.

A third-party review conducted this winter by a former Illinois inspector general found ongoing hazing, including “forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature,” university president Michael Schill said in a letter earlier this month that announced Fitzgerald’s termination.

Though the investigation found no “credible evidence” Fitzgerald was aware of the alleged hazing, the head coach is ultimately responsible for the team’s culture, Schill wrote. Fitzgerald has denied any knowledge of hazing in the program.

When asked Wednesday whether he would look into any involvement of staff members who have been named in lawsuits, Braun said he trusts the university “will make decisions based on the facts.”

“What I can speak to is how proud I am of the way that our team has come together with all this stuff swirling around our football team and there is absolute resolve and confidence from our leadership within our team of how we’re going to move forward,” he said at the two-day gathering in Indianapolis for the league’s head coaches and top players to speak to the media about the upcoming season.

Northwestern linebacker Bryce Gallagher, defensive back Rod Heard II and wide receiver Bryce Kirtz were scheduled to take part in the gathering, but opted out because they “did not want our participation to be dominated by the hazing issue and steal the focus away from football and the upcoming season,” according to a statement from the team.

Braun supported their decisions, saying it has been a very difficult time for current and former players and staff members. He said the coaches will focus in the future on each player having “the ultimate student-athlete experience.”

Braun, who was named interim head coach on July 14, said when he spoke in the team’s first meeting, he wanted to challenge his team.

“We have an opportunity to either run from that or an opportunity to truly stare that adversity in the face, stare it down and go attack this opportunity to make this fall an incredible story that truly embodies what this team is all about,” he said Wednesday.

In his first interview since Fitzgerald’s firing, athletics director Derrick Gragg told ESPN the university will have mandatory anti-hazing seminars and said he is committed in ensuring “nothing like this ever happens again.”

Northwestern opens its 2023 season at Rutgers University in New Jersey on September 3.