Northwestern State University announced Thursday afternoon it has canceled the remainder of the 2023 football season due to the recent shooting death of junior safety Ronnie Caldwell, with university president Dr. Marcus Jones citing the mental health and well-being of its student-athletes as the primary reason for its decision.
“Ronnie was a beloved member of our community, and we miss him dearly,” said Jones. “While our instinct was to return to the field of play following his death, we’ve since learned that the hurt on our team was too deep. Now it is in the best interest of our players, coaches, and staff to pause and to take this time to mourn, to heal, and to support Ronnie’s family.”
The school has also accepted the resignation of head coach, Brad Laird, who was in his sixth season as head coach of the Demons football team.
“Due to the loss of Ronnie and the emotional burden it has caused me, I don’t feel I can give my all to these players or this program,” Laird said. “Any coach will tell you that their players become like family, so the loss of Ronnie was like losing a son. I love this program and this university and I know it will persevere and move forward with the competitive spirit that is at the core of our DNA.”
Caldwell, a junior safety from Cedar Park, Texas, in the Austin metroplex, had been persevering through an injury, traveling with the team in a coaching capacity, helping other defensive backs with their technique and schemes. His death, in an Oct. 12 early morning shooting at the Quad Apartment Complex, remains under investigation by the Natchitoches Police Department. Two roommates have been arrested on drugs and weapons charges, but no charges relating to Caldwell’s death have been filed.
“We appreciate Coach Laird’s long-term investment in Northwestern State football. From his undergraduate time as a record-setting quarterback to his year spent overseeing the university’s alumni office to coaching, he has been a vital member of the team,” said Kevin Bostian, NSU’s athletic director. “While we are disappointed not to be able to finish the season, we are confident that better days lie ahead for Northwestern State football.”
Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator, Weston Glaser, will step in as interim head coach while the athletic department begins an immediate search for its next head coach.
“I want to thank our team, family, friends and the whole Northwestern State community for your understanding of this difficult decision,” Jones said. “We appreciate your support during this challenging time.”
The university’s press release did not immediately address considerations related to the Nov. 3-4 homecoming weekend, which was to culminate with an afternoon football game.
The decision also impacts McNeese State’s homecoming this weekend. NSU was scheduled to play at McNeese Saturday night.