EVANSTON, Ill. – Northwestern’s athletic administration situation is officially settled.
Dr. Derrick Gragg was introduced as the Wildcats new athletic director Monday.
“This is a destination job. There are 130 FBS positions like this across the country. Fortunately, for me, I’ve had two of them in the last 15 years, but this is an elite program. It’s separated itself” noted Gragg. “Most importantly, this feels like home.”
The former A.D. at Tulsa and Eastern Michigan was on NU’s short list when the school promoted Mike Polisky, only to see him resign under pressure from faculty and athletes over a pending lawsuit.
The fact that Gragg, who was named senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement at the NCAA last fall, reconsidered accepting the position turned the hire from a fiasco to a clear win.
“He was on our wish list very early. When he was approached he said he wasn’t willing, at the time, to let his name go forward,” explained Northwestern University President Morty Schapiro. “After what happened with Mike Polisky stepping down, the first thing the committee did and the chair did was look at the people who were originally on our dream list. Derrick’s name was there. We approached him again and he said, ‘You know what? I talked to Sanya and my family and I think I’m willing to go forward in conversations. Once that happened, very quickly, We visited him. We fell in love. Thank God he agreed to come.”
So why the change of heart?
“I’ll answer that question with a question of my own and it’s ‘are you kidding me?’ Of course, I’m here. This is Northwestern,” Gragg remarked. “I love the fact that Northwestern doesn’t play second fiddle to anybody. That’s the way I am.”