Homecoming Q&A: Athletic Director Dr. Derrick Gragg
Eastern Michigan University Athletic Director Dr. Derrick Gragg did a question-and-answer e-mail exchange Monday. He talked about Saturday’s homecoming football game against Temple as well as a visit to memory lane about his former employer and his alma mater.
Gragg was a receiver at Vanderbilt from 1988-91 and graduated with his bachelor’s in human development in 1992. Before arriving at EMU in 2007, he spent six years at Arkansas as an associate athletic director.
From his computer in Dallas, Gragg answered these questions:
Pool: What was the homecoming experience like for you as a player at Vanderbilt?
Gragg: Homecoming experiences at Vanderbilt usually weren’t the best because, due to the way schedules turned out, for some reason we played Georgia at least two times on homecoming, which offended them of course. The Vanderbilt culture at the time was much different, because unlike the most recent team that won a bowl game this past season, we were 3-8, 1-11 and 1-11 my first three years there. So we lost our first three homecoming football games during my first three years on campus.
Pool: This year EMU will be traveling to Arkansas, which is not only its homecoming, but a homecoming for yourself, what will that be like?
Gragg: I am looking forward to returning to Fayetteville for that game, mainly because it will be a great experience for our student athletes and travel party. I envision our program having the same type of support and excitement in the near future, and of course, I’d love to come back to Ypsilanti with a win!
Pool: Last year there was talk about possibly bringing a concert to EMU on homecoming. How big was it for that to happen this year? Signed, Sealed, Delivered with Dwele is performing postgame.
Gragg: The after-game concert is another way for us to provide entertainment to our students and community supporters. We view our game-day experiences as “events” and not just football games, so this falls in line with that philosophy. Our marketing department has done a great job so far, and we hope to continue the great momentum from the opening game, where we had the largest on-campus crowd for a sporting event in more than 15 years. We hope to have more game-related concerts in the future with “household name” artists who will help us attract larger crowds.
Pool: What’s your biggest homecoming moment at any school?
Gragg: My biggest homecoming moment was when we beat Georgia my senior year after falling behind 14-0. One of the main highlights was my roommate and best friend, Corey Harris, who went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, picked up a fumble and raced 69 yards for a touchdown. We won four straight games that year and went into our final game 5-5 with an outside chance to be selected to play in a bowl game. Our coach Gerry DiNardo, who is now an on-air analyst for the Big Ten Network, was also selected as Southeastern Conference coach of the year.
Pool: Finally, Temple has Bill Cosby, so who do you think is EMU’s biggest celeb?
Gragg: That is a tough question. We have several very notable alumni that include Rodney Slater, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation for President Clinton; national television judge and activist Greg Mathis; and of course one of our biggest sports “celebrities” is Charlie Batch. He is a member of my favorite NFL team, the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Charlie is also being honored in November as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Pittsburgh.