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Northwestern University athletic director Derrick Gragg to be moved to different position

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) -- Northwestern University athletic director Derrick Gragg is being moved to a different role, and the university has begun a search for a new athletic director.

The university announced Thursday that Gragg has been appointed to a new role with the title of vice president for athletic strategy. He will also remain in the post of athletic director until his eventual replacement takes over.

A Northwestern news release noted that college sports are amid a "dynamic environment and historic moment that will fundamentally change what it means to be a student-athlete." In particular, the university pointed to the ability for student athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness—which the NCAA Board approved in 2020—and the House v. NCAA settlement that creates a pathway for direct revenue sharing with college athletes.

Gragg in his new role will focus on advising the university president and athletic director on how Northwestern can be a leader in this new environment, the university said.

"Derrick has been an asset to Northwestern over the last few years, and our athletics department has achieved some remarkable accomplishments under his leadership, both on and off the fields of competition," Northwestern President Michael Schill said in a news release."In addition, after an investigation found hazing in our football program, Derrick helped us recover and set the stage for a new era of excellence."

Controversies have marked Gragg's time as NU athletic director 

Gragg was appointed athletic director at Northwestern three years ago. He replaced Mike Polisky as athletic director.

Polisky resigned after 10 days, following campus protests over his having been named as a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Gragg's term as Northwestern athletic director has been marked by numerous high-profile controversies in Wildcats sports. In July of last year, Wildcats football coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired—and several football players filed lawsuits—over a hazing scandal.

Attorneys for the players said those players have shared what they went through in the program – including the "Gatorade shake challenge," in which players were forced to chug protein-heavy drinks until they got sick. There were also allegations of "forced naked acts," among other allegations.

Fitzgerald, who has maintained he had no knowledge of the hazing, filed a $130 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the school and its president.

In August of last year, head Northwestern baseball coach Jim Foster was fired as a scandal also erupted in the Wildcats baseball program.

In a lawsuit, former assistant baseball coaches Dustin Napoleon and Jonathan Strauss and former director of baseball operations Chris Beacom claimed there was harassment, bullying, and abuse within the program under Foster.

The three men claimed there was a culture of racism, sexism, and retaliation against them after they reported NCAA violations by Foster to university officials. They said Northwestern swept their concerns under the rug, and retaliated by demoting them and not renewing their contracts.

The women's volleyball program at Northwestern was also the subject of a hazing scandal at Northwestern last year.

But Northwestern sports teams did see some success during Gragg's term. David Braun—who was hired first as interim football coach to replace Fitzgerald, and later as full-time head coach—was named Big Ten Coach of the Year last fall.

Other sports have also seen success. The men's basketball team under coach Chris Collins appeared in the NCAA Division I tournament this year and last, and the Northwestern women's lacrosse under coach Kelly Amonte Hiller team won the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship last year, and made the championship game this year.

Meanwhile, Northwestern is also in the midst of rebuilding Ryan Field—a process that has also drawn controversy as residents have expressed concerns over noise and traffic from the construction and concerts held at the new stadium. Northwestern football, soccer, and lacrosse games will be played at the Lanny Sharon Martin athletics facility near Lake Michigan until the new stadium opens in 2026.

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