Northwestern AD Derrick Gragg scrutinized over views on women in book
A hazing scandal no longer is the only thing drawing negative attention to the athletics department at Northwestern University.
The latest development generating scrutiny is a book written by the school’s athletic director, Derrick Gragg, that includes controversial passages about women. One chapter is titled, “Women: Our Greatest Distraction.”
The book, “40 Days of Direction: Life Lessons from the Talented Ten,’’ was published in 2015 and is in the news after the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday published a story that included passages from Gragg’s book. At the time, Gragg was the athletic director at Tulsa.
Gragg, who in 2021 became Northwestern’s first Black athletic director, previously served as chief diversity and inclusion officer with the NCAA. That stint began in October 2020 and, according to his online bio at Northwestern, ended when he was hired by the school in June 2021.
In one passage in the book, Gragg writes, “There is nothing worse than seeing a beautiful, intelligent woman disrespect herself and those around her. All you have to do is turn on a hip-hop music video or one of the several awful reality television shows to see women degrading themselves shaking it for cameras and audiences.
“Music videos portray women as booty-shaking sex-kittens or materialistic gold-diggers. Many of those women simply do not seem to have a sense of self and who they really are or where they come from at all. However, regardless of what you see or hear, there are very good, upwardly mobile, smart women out there. You probably encounter them every day at school or in the community.”
Northwestern did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
In an email to the Chicago Tribune, according to the newspaper report, Gragg on Tuesday wrote, “The audience I was speaking to was primarily young men in similar circumstances who are looking for role models as they pursue their own dreams both as college athletes and in life. One of the most important lessons that I sought to convey to my young, male readers is that all women should be treated with respect at all times. This is a belief I have sought to champion in both my personal life and throughout my entire career — including in my most recent position overseeing inclusion across the entire NCAA.”
The department led by Gragg is facing intense scrutiny. On July 10, Pat Fitzgerald was fired as the school’s longtime head football coach after the Daily Northwestern published a story with details about alleged sexualized hazing within the football team.
Three days later, baseball coach Jim Foster was fired after the Chicago Tribune reported a university investigation found “sufficient evidence” that Foster “engaged in bullying and abusive behavior.”
But Northwestern president Michael Schill has given no indication that Gragg’s job is in jeopardy.
On Monday, during an interview with the Daily Northwestern, Schill said, “Dr. Gragg is relatively new to the University. Most of the activity that has been churned up happened before he came here. The decision will be my decision in the end, informed by conversations with our trustees and our attorneys.
“There’s no conversation ongoing about his employment. I am supporting him, I am meeting with him about the prospective steps, but there is no process, conversation or discussion of his employment status. He is the athletic director. If there should be allegations, just like anybody else involved, we will investigate that.”
The year after the publication of his book, Gragg was featured in a speaking engagement at Vanderbilt, where he played football from 1988-1991. The Amazon description of the book indicates it draws from Gragg’s inclusion in a group of men known as “DaFellaz.”
“African-American males who survived on a predominately white, wealthy campus; their roles in today’s society as fathers and husbands; and their futures, collectively and individually,” according to the book description.
In a chapter entitled, “Remember, She is Someone’s Daughter,” he addresses behavior around women.
“I know it can be difficult to be a gentleman at all times,” Gragg writes. “We usually have only seconds to make some of the most important decisions that can ultimately change the way our lives turn out. I know it’s tough. The alcohol is flowing, she is feeling you and you are definitely feeling her. This is why it is critical for you to think with your brain and not your physical emotions or feelings during these times.”
On Amazon, a description of the book includes, “The primary target audience is young males from junior high school through college along with their parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers and anyone who is influential in their lives. This is a blueprint not only for the young men who seek to become college athletes, but for all young men who aspire to become successful no matter what path they take in life.”