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Home news Northwestern hires NCAA executive Derrick Gragg as athletic director

Northwestern hires NCAA executive Derrick Gragg as athletic director

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Northwestern hired NCAA executive Derrick Gragg as its athletic director Friday, the school’s second time filling the position in a little more than a month.

Mike Polisky, a longtime deputy AD at Northwestern, was promoted to the job May 3 but stepped down amid backlash because he was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Big Ten school by former Wildcats cheerleaders.

Polisky was hired to replace Jim Phillips, who left Northwestern last year to become commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Gragg was athletic director at Tulsa from 2013 until last year, when he left to join the NCAA. He was named senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement in August and started the job in October.

“I am thrilled and humbled to join the Northwestern University family at this pivotal moment in college athletics,” Gragg said in a statement. “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.”

The 51-year-old former Vanderbilt football player has a 25-year career in college athletics that includes stints as an administrator with Missouri, Michigan and Arkansas. He was athletic director at Eastern Michigan from 2006 to 2013.

Northwestern president Morton Schapiro, who initially defended the promotion of Polisky in the face of criticism from within the Northwestern community, called Gragg the “ideal person for the job.”

“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,” Schapiro said in a statement.

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