Northwestern State University announced on Oct. 26 that it has canceled the remainder of the 2023 football season due to the recent death of junior safety, Ronnie Caldwell. The school cited 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 NSU President Dr. Marcus 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.”
Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Weston Glaser will step in as interim head coach while the athletic department begins an immediate search for its next head coach.
Caldwell’s death remains under investigation by the Natchitoches Police Department.
Caldwell was killed on Oct. 12. Caldwell’s roommate, John McIntosh, was arrested the next day and charged with possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance, but local police have not confirmed if that is connected to Caldwell’s death. On Oct. 20, Northwestern State defensive tackle Maurice Campbell was arrested in connection with Caldwell’s death and charged with obstruction of justice, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance.
Caldwell Family Says There Were “Warnings”
The Caldwell family released the below statement in coordination with Cox Pradia Law Firm:
“The Caldwell family is heartbroken as we recover from the process of laying our dear Ronnie to rest this past weekend. We ask that you continue to cover our family in prayer as forge ahead through this tragedy and live a life without our beloved son. We would like to share some background on the events that led up to the final days of Ronnie’s life and what we believe to be the cause of the resignation of Northwestern State University (Natchitoches, Louisiana) Head Football Coach Brad Laird.
Due to mold in his unit at The Quad Apartment Complex, Ronnie was moved away from his original football teammate and roommate, was relocated to a new apartment within the same complex. The Quad Apartments are owned and managed by Campus Advantage, headquartered in Austin, Texas. Ronnie was somehow placed with a new roommate, who was a non-university non-college student. He also had previous run ins with law enforcement. Guns and drugs were subsequently discovered in the new roommate’s possession upon his arrest.
After a series of verbal altercations, Ronnie’s new roommate pulled a gun on him on October 9th. Ronnie immediately reported this to his parents. Ronnie’s father immediately sent a text to Northwestern State Head Football Coach Brad Laird alerting him that he needed help and that Ronnie’s roommate had pulled a gun on him. Coach Laird replied with a phone call assuring the family that he would take immediate action and move Ronnie to a safe location. Nothing was done, the family heard no updates from the University. The next call the family received was from Coach Brad Laird telling us that Ronnie had been murdered. Three days after his cry for help, Ronnie was shot and killed at his apartment. According to local reports, his roommate was arrested on gun and drug possession charges. There is much more to this story than what has been widely reported. There were warnings. This was a senseless tragedy that could have been prevented.
Northwestern State University failed one of its students and one of its star athletes. The coaches of ALL collegiate athletes have a huge responsibility to keep the athletes under their care safe and to make sure that they are thriving in their university environment. With families often being thousands of miles away, the coaches and the university staff are often the first line of defense to keep these children safe. We are speaking out now amid our extreme pain to ensure this doesn’t happen to another student athlete, so Ronnie’s life can live on through a greater purpose.”