NATCHITOCHES, La. (WGNO) — Northwestern State University announced Thursday, Oct. 26, that it has canceled the remainder of the 2023 football season due to the recent passing of junior safety, Ronnie Caldwell. The school cites the mental health and wellbeing 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 President 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.”

“Our thoughts remain with Ronnie Caldwell’s family, teammates, coaches, friends, and the entire Natchitoches community,” said Southland Commissioner Chris Grant in a statement. “As a Conference, the well-being of our student-athletes is our utmost priority, and the Southland Conference fully supports the leadership of President Marcus Jones, Athletics Director Kevin Bostian, and Northwestern State University in the decision to cancel their football season. Our unwavering commitment is to those impacted by Ronnie’s loss, and we will steadfastly support Northwestern State during this period of grief and recovery.”

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.”

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