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Northwestern spoke with former coaches about the special assistant role

Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Senior Writer July 20, 2023, 9:40 a.m. ET

Close College football journalist. Joined ESPN.com in 2008. Graduated from Northwestern University.

Northwestern has been in discussions with former NFL and college coach Dave Wannstedt and others about a special assistant role for the 2023 season.

Wannstedt told WSCR radio in Chicago on Thursday that he spoke with Northwestern athletic director Derrick Gragg over the weekend about possibly joining the coaching staff, but ultimately withdrew from consideration. Northwestern last week appointed defensive coordinator David Braun as caretaker coach for the 2023 season, but the school is considering adding a veteran coach to assist him, sources have told ESPN.

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Wannstedt, who coached Pitt from 2005 to 2010 and has helmed the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins, told WSCR he views his position differently than Northwestern does and has concerns about what his role will be.

“What is the role of this person? You bring in other people who are going to be there every day and be in the press box and engage in playcalling, you are going to lose players,” Wannstedt said. “Players have to play for their head coach. Coaches need to know they are coaching with the head coach, is it the person, or everyone will be sitting on their hands.”

Wannstedt said Northwestern also contacted Skip Holtz, a longtime college coach who now leads the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions, but sources told ESPN’s Pete Thamel that Holtz would not be joining the school. Northwestern has not filled staff vacancies following the July 10 firing of coach Pat Fitzgerald. The school is facing multiple lawsuits over allegations of hazing, racial discrimination and other mistreatment within the program.

Northwestern is retaining all of its assistant coaches and support staff for the 2023 season, which begins September 3 at Rutgers.

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