Following the conclusion of a dreary 10-40 season, Northwestern baseball’s offseason has been fraught with continued chaos. That turmoil has only grown further in the last week.
According to multiple sources close to the Northwestern baseball program, including current and recent former players, athletic director Derrick Gragg met with acting head coach Brian Anderson on Monday, and informed the assistant coach that he would not be NU’s head coach for the 2024 season — and that an external, national search for candidates would occur. One source that spoke to Inside NU was told the news directly by Anderson himself.
Moreover, these sources shared that Gragg, or any other member of Northwestern’s athletic department, never disseminated the news of not hiring Anderson to the team. In fact, the players that were contacted by Anderson himself relayed the information to teammates in a group text chat in an effort to spread the message.
According to two players, the team indicated its support of Anderson to be Northwestern’s next head coach in a July 17 meeting — the first after the “indefinite suspension” of Jim Foster — with one noting it was “just about unanimously” in favor of Anderson. A player shared that NU’s athletic department was “having us operating under the assumption” that Anderson would be the head coach for 2024.
“He’s a guy who’s been around,” a player said of Anderson. “He’s a guy who we know. He would be a fantastic coach. And, we know he has our backs. We know that he’s somebody who we can trust.”
Another current player who was recruited by Anderson echoed similar sentiments, expressing his desire for Anderson to be the head coach because he “seems like a great leader who wants to get the program going in the right direction.”
It is unclear whether Anderson will remain with the Wildcats in any coaching capacity.
Multiple sources revealed that Gragg sent an email to players on Aug. 3, in which the AD wrote to “check on you given all that has been going on in Wildcat Nation.” Despite other scandals at Northwestern, Gragg affirmed that he has “still been able to focus on our baseball program and other areas” despite “unforeseen events that have required a lot of my attention,” adding that he would “look forward to sharing more news soon.” Inside NU obtained a picture of this email, with one player mentioning it was the last he had heard from Gragg.
Players discussed their ongoing anger at little messaging from athletic administration, despite efforts to get in contact with leadership.
“They ignore calls, ignore emails, texts,” a current player said, adding that the department is “functioning right now with the sole purpose of keeping mouths shut.”
When asked about the mood from players regarding the athletic department, a recent former player referred to it as “complete uncertainty.”
In the wake of Foster’s “indefinite suspension” on July 13, Gragg announced that Anderson “will take leadership of the program.” Anderson, a former first-round MLB Draft pick, was first hired by the Wildcats on March 28, after two prior assistants had departed the team following the start of the 2023 season.
One current player called the language utilized by Gragg in the announcement of Anderson’s initial promotion as “slimy and intentional,” with Anderson never technically being referred to as the team’s interim head coach.
Inside NU reached out to Northwestern for comment about the decision not to hire Anderson, as well as not informing players through leadership, but did not hear back at the time of publication.
Editor’s Note: Several hours after publishing this story, university spokesperson Jon Yates shared a statement with Inside NU, noting that Northwestern’s athletic department “provides updates as appropriate.” Yates also verified the date and contents of the aforementioned email from Gragg. Regarding Anderson, Yates said that the coach will “remain in charge...during this transitional period.”
In that July 17 meeting, players noted that an emphasis was placed on “transparency” with regard to the program’s search for a head coach, and that Gragg would defer to the team’s desires for its new leader.
“He [Gragg] went on to assure us that we’ve been heard,” a current player said.
After players were notified of the decision not to move forward with Anderson via their teammates, they were “caught off guard” and “sick of being misled.”
“It’s not so much, ‘Oh, we wish this guy was head coach and this guy wasn’t,’ a player said. “It’s more of just, ‘This mistreatment from the administration is getting insanely old.’”
Including the upcoming 2024 campaign, Northwestern will now have had four head baseball coaches in the last four seasons. When asked if they trust the university’s leadership to pick a competent and qualified head coach, two players expressed doubt.
“Absolutely not,” a current player said, underscoring the very late nature of the hiring cycle.
The recent former player noted that he would feel confident in the athletic department’s vetting process in “normal circumstances,” but that “it doesn’t seem like they’re thinking about baseball at all.”
As for what the players would like to see Gragg and the university do, two indicated that hiring Anderson, even for one year, is in the program’s best interest.
“It takes more than just half a summer to get somebody to uproot their life and come to Chicago,” the former player said. “You’re probably not going to find the best candidate or most qualified coach. We kind of saw that happen last year.”
“I think they would have to take BA at this point,” a current player stressed. “How can we be okay with letting that go with hopes of potentially finding someone a little bit better? That doesn’t really make much sense to a lot of us.”
Despite players’ wishes, it appears that Northwestern will indeed hire an outside head coach before the start of the 2024 season. Per reports from MLB Network’s J.P. Morosi, NU has interest in head coaching candidates with ties to the school, including former New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi, former Chicago Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta and Chicago White Sox Director of Youth Baseball Mike Huff. Other names to have been floated by Morosi are White Sox assistant general manager Chris Getz, Michigan associate head coach Ben Greenspan, Pepperdine assistant Danny Worth and Washburn pitching coach Shaun Marcum.
As for compiling a new staff in August, a source close to the team deemed the decision not to hire Anderson a “joke,” adding, “Admin is just tying one arm behind our backs and hoping we can be successful.”