Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins

Before+coming+to+Northwestern%2C+Derrick+Gragg+had+served+as+athletic+director+at+both+the+University+of+Tulsa+and+Eastern+Michigan+University.
Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman
Before coming to Northwestern, Derrick Gragg had served as athletic director at both the University of Tulsa and Eastern Michigan University.

Nearly three years after beginning his tenure as Northwestern’s athletic director, Derrick Gragg will transition to the newly created role of vice president for athletic strategy, according to a Thursday news release.

With the introduction of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rights in 2021, an upcoming Big Ten conference expansion and the construction of a brand new Ryan Field, NU is in the midst of traversing a radically different collegiate sports landscape, which Gragg will address in his new role.

“We are thrilled that Derrick will bring his vast expertise and institutional knowledge to this new role,” University President Michael Schill wrote in the release. “Derrick will be instrumental in helping Northwestern navigate the emerging opportunities in intercollegiate athletics and the rapid transformations underway.”

The search for a new athletic director will commence immediately, the University announced. Gragg — who previously served as the NCAA’s senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement before coming to Evanston — will continue in his current role until the new appointee takes over. 

In recent years, NU sports programs have enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success, including national championships in field hockey and lacrosse, and many conference honors.

In just the 2023-24 season alone, the Wildcats earned a record seven Big Ten championships across 19 varsity programs.

During this time, however, NU athletics has also been mired in scandal, both before and during Gragg’s time as athletic director.

A month before Gragg’s initial appointment in June 2021, Mike Polisky’s resignation after just nine days as athletic director shook the campus. Polisky faced major backlash after being named as a defendant in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a member of the cheerleading program, with hundreds of NU community members protesting against his appointment.

Under Gragg, the athletics department was tasked with addressing hazing and racial discrimination allegations within the football team, which led to the dismissal of former coach Pat Fitzgerald. Other major issues have included accusations of unsafe conditions from cheerleaders and reports of abusive behavior under former baseball coach Jim Foster.

With the ever-changing nature of collegiate sports, the University signaled its intention to stay ahead of the curve with Gragg’s new position and a new athletic director, who will represent NU’s fourth since the beginning of 2021.

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