April 7, 2022
Since my last update to you in February, we have continued to work diligently towards our mission of providing the best student-athlete experience possible, and we have seen that work pay off in many ways. While we continue to get better every day, it is important for us to measure our wins, big and small, to collectively celebrate and move forward. We should always take the time to applaud the hard work of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff, and to thank our incredible Wildcat community and donors.
On Wednesday, April 6th, we celebrated National Student-Athlete Day, taking a step back to appreciate the positive virtues of sport, and the role each of us plays in the development of our student-athletes. We challenged our community to step up and support the 510 tremendous young men and women who proudly wear the Wildcat jersey by securing 510 donors. You did it, and I am blown away by the support! I want to sincerely thank everyone who helped us reach a record high 667 donors who gave more than $130,000. You matched the dedication that our student-athletes bring to their competitions and classwork. Because of you, we are stronger than ever and will continue to rise!
Head Coach Extensions and Staffing
In my prior message, I touched on the importance of having the right people in positions to help us achieve our goals and lead our department. We have been diligently building out individual departments and extending contracts of our head coaches who have exemplified the leadership and success driven mindset that we expect. Please see below for a comprehensive list of the head coaches that have had their contracts re-structured.
Another BIG victory for our department was filling the vacancy overseeing our incredibly impactful David G. Kabiller NU for Life Program. Kate Smith, our new Assistant A.D., is a familiar face in Evanston. With a strong background in the business world that followed an impressive career as a basketball student-athlete in the Big Ten, Kate completed her graduate degree from Kellogg and has been working with the school for nearly a decade. Click below to read more about Kate and why she is exactly the right person to lead this program and position our student-athletes for life after Northwestern.
I have truly enjoyed getting out and meeting many of our fans and supporters, and I look forward to meeting more passionate Wildcat fans in the weeks and months ahead. Additionally, the Wildcat Fund team, under the guidance of Deputy A.D. Jesse Marks, will be reaching out and getting in front of our supporters on a regular basis. There are some familiar faces and a few newcomers in the group, but they are all excited and prepared to usher in this new era of Northwestern Athletics.
Ryan Deakin Wins National Championship
Ryan Deakin is a prime example of what every Wildcat strives to be. Excellence in the classroom and a work ethic that earned him a national championship in this year’s NCAA Wrestling Championships are the gold standard, and we are all very proud of him. Congratulations, Ryan!
Wildcats Earn Top-6 National Finish, Four All-Americans
In addition to Ryan’s fantastic individual performance, I would be remiss if I did not note the outstanding work of this year’s wrestling team under Coach Storniolo. For just the third time in program history, and the first in more than fifty years, 10 Wildcat wrestlers qualified for the National Championships. Earning a Top-6 national finish with four All-Americans is indicative of the championship culture Coach Storniolo has built, and we all look forward to the bright future for this program.
Much has been said and written about the amazing career of women’s basketball student-athlete Veronica Burton during her time in Evanston, but it can never do justice to this exemplary Wildcat. On and off the court, Veronica embodies everything that we hope to build our young people into. Congratulations to the first Northwestern women’s basketball player to ever be named to one of the three AP All-America teams, in addition to the long list of accolades that she has earned this year. I hope you will join us as we tune into the WNBA Draft on ESPN, Monday, April 11th, as we excitedly wait to hear Veronica’s name called.
Big Ten Announces Winter Academic All-Big Ten Recognition
Last but not least, I want to make sure we applaud the 79 student-athletes who earned Winter Academic All-Big Ten recognition. The rigor of student-athlete life is not to be taken lightly, and many of our Wildcats have met the challenge. Congratulations!
As we come out of spring break and focus on the remainder of this quarter, I am eager to see what lies ahead. I look forward to an exciting finish to this spring season and I hope that you will all stay engaged and follow along with us.
Thank you again for all that you do to support the ’Cats!
Dr. Derrick Gragg
Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation