Dr. Derrick Gragg
Dr. Derrick Gragg was named Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation by President Morty Schapiro in June of 2021, the 23rd person selected to lead the department for the Wildcats. A long-time athletic director, college sports administrator, and diversity and inclusion leader, Gragg joined the Northwestern family after serving as the NCAA’s senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement.
“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.”
Throughout his career in college athletics, Gragg has prioritized representing the underrepresented and providing a voice and allyship to people of color, women and the LGBTQ community.
While serving as the NCAA’s senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement, Gragg has worked to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are reflected on all levels in college athletics. He had a dual focus on internal and external initiatives and programming.
A former football letter-winner at Vanderbilt, Gragg he has always valued the impact of academics on athletes. He earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Wayne State University, then his doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas. Gragg joined the Arkansas athletic department in 2000 as an associate director, and eventually was promoted to deputy director.
Gragg became Eastern Michigan University’s athletic director in 2006, then was named to the same position at the University of Tulsa in 2013.
Under Gragg’s leadership, Tulsa athletics made the transition from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference in 2014-15. In the first six years of Tulsa’s membership, Hurricane teams won 19 Conference titles, the second-most in the league. During his tenure, Tulsa advanced to postseason competition 53 times and produced 28 All-Americans, eight CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and 1,158 American Athletic Conference academic honor roll recipients.
Gragg also helped conceptualize the Tulsa Legacy Game, designed to pay tribute to the survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, which is widely recognized as one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history. The first Tulsa Legacy Game took place last year.
He administered the development and implementation of the athletic department’s strategic plan, was instrumental in securing Tulsa’s largest-ever planned gift for athletics, and facilitated the department’s first all-sport apparel agreement with Adidas, tripling the amount of athletics apparel for student-athletes, coaches and staff. He also served as tournament director for NCAA DI Men’s Basketball Tournament First and Second Round games in 2017 and 2019 at Tulsa’s downtown BOK Center.