Northwestern names Derrick Gragg its next AD

Northwestern named NCAA executive Dr. Derrick Gragg as its new athletic director on Friday.

Gragg, the NCAA’s senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement, will begin July 1. He previously served as athletic director at Tulsa and Eastern Michigan.

“I am thrilled and humbled to join the Northwestern University family at this pivotal moment in college athletics,” Gragg said. “My career has been shaped by an unwavering belief in the potential of student-athletes to excel in all areas. These young people need more support than ever in the midst of challenging, changing and exciting times. I look forward to joining an incredible roster of coaches and staff in Evanston on this collaborative mission to help our Wildcats achieve at the highest level as students, as athletes and as people.”

Gragg is filling the vacancy created when Mike Polisky resigned last month after just 10 days on the job. The university received backlash after announcing the promotion of Polisky, formerly the deputy athletic director for external affairs, as news spread that he was a defendant in a federal lawsuit alleging sexual harassment within the cheerleading program.

Polisky had been hired to replace Jim Phillips, who was named in December by the Athletic Coast Conference as the successor to commissioner John Swofford.

“It was essential for us to find the right leader for the next chapter at Northwestern — someone who can build both academic and athletic excellence at a time of rapid change in the intercollegiate sports landscape, and also someone who can create the best possible environment for students, staff and coaches,” Northwester president Morton Schapiro said. “After talking extensively with Derrick, it was clear that he was the ideal person for the job.”

Gragg was AD at Eastern Michigan from 2006-13 and at Tulsa from 2013-20 before resigning to accept the NCAA position a year ago. He played football at Vanderbilt, then earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Wayne State and his doctorate in higher education administration from Arkansas.

Northwestern linguistics professor Robert Gundlach will continue to serve as interim athletic director until July 1.