Northwestern State cancels its football season in the wake of a player's shooting death

Updated Oct. 26, 2023 6:12 p.m. ET

NATCHITOCHES, La. (AP) — Northwestern State has canceled the remainder of its football season, citing the need to attend to the mental health of its players in the wake of the shooting death of safety Ronnie Caldwell.

“Ronnie was a beloved member of our community, and we miss him dearly,” university President Marcus Jones said. “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.”

Northwestern State also has accepted the resignation of coach Brad Laird, who was in his sixth season with the program.

“I don’t feel I can give my all to these players or this program,” Laird said in a statement released by the university. “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, wasn't able to play recently because of an injury, but had been traveling with the team in a quasi-coaching capacity, helping the staff overseeing defensive backs.

“We appreciate Coach Laird’s long-term investment in Northwestern State football,” athletics director Kevin Bostian said, noting that Laird, in addition to his recent stint as coach, had excelled as a quarterback for the Demons and had worked in the university’s alumni office.

The university announced that defensive coordinator Weston Glaser would 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.”

Caldwell was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds by Natchitoches police officers who responded shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 12 to a report of a shooting at an apartment complex near campus. The coroner’s office pronounced Caldwell dead at the scene.

Police officials said no arrests have been made in connection with the case, which remains under investigation.

Caldwell played safety for the Demons after transferring from Tyler Junior College following the 2021 football season. In 2022, he appeared in all 11 games, starting 10, and finished seventh on the team in tackles.

Northwestern cancelled one game immediately after Caldwell’s death and moved the date of another game so players and staff could attend funeral services in Texas. The team will finish the season 0-6.


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