Northwestern State cancels remainder of 2023 season after player's shooting death

Days after Ronnie Caldwell's death, a teammate was arrested on charges relating to the shooting

HATTIESBURG, MS - SEPTEMBER 17: A Northwestern State helmet on the bench during a college football game between the Northwestern State (LA) Demons and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on September 17, 2022, at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Northwestern State will officially finish the 2023 season at 0-6. (Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Northwestern State announced Thursday that it had canceled the remainder of its 2023 football season following the shooting death of safety Ronnie Caldwell.

Caldwell was found dead in the early hours of Oct. 12 after police responded to a shots fired call at an apartment complex. On Oct. 20, the Natchitoches Police Department said it had arrested defensive tackle Maurice Campbell for obstruction of justice, marijuana possession with the intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance.

Campbell was the second person arrested related to Caldwell’s death. Caldwell’s roommate, John McIntosh, had been previously booked for possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance.

Campbell's player page on the Northwestern State website no longer exists.

Northwestern State canceled its upcoming game against Nicholls the day of Caldwell’s death and said Thursday that the mental health and wellbeing of Caldwell’s teammates was the primary reason for its decision to cancel the remainder of the season.

“Ronnie was a beloved member of our community, and we miss him dearly,” school president Marcus Jones said in Thursday's statement. “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 also announced that coach Brad Laird had resigned from his post. Laird was in his sixth season with the team and played quarterback at the school.

“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 in the statement. “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.”

Northwestern State will finish the season at 0-6 after canceling games against McNeese, Houston Christian, Incarnate Word and Texas A&M Commerce. The Demons played one game after Caldwell’s death and lost 37-20 to Southeastern Louisiana on Oct. 19, the day before Campbell was arrested.