Teams with new coaches making the most noise; Stat stuffers setting the pace on offense and defense
by Lut Williams Just past the midway point of the 2014 black college football season, here are some of the midseason awards.
MOST SURPRISING TEAM - Grambling State and new coach Broderick Fobbs. Its quite ironic that the legendary Grambling program under the direction of first-year head coach Broderick Fobbs is the unquestioned winner of this award. The Tigers are 4-3 overall, 4-0 in the SWAC, the only undefeated team in the league and winners of four straight after losing its first three. They have played two teams ranked No. 1 in the BCSP Top Ten, Bethune-Cookman (a 36-23 loss after leading in the fourth quarter) and Alcorn State (a 28-21 win last week). They are up to No. 3 in the latest BCSP Top Ten.
But there‘s a fitting story here.
Grambling entered the 2014 football season as the only SWAC West Division program not under NCAA sanctions for poor Academic Progress Rates (APR). The other teams in the division – Texas Southern, Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View A&M – are all barred from NCAA postseason play and other team activities because of the APR issues.
Under ordinary circumstances, the G-Men would have been declared the division champs and earned a spot in the leagues championship game this December before the season started. But there‘s nothing ordinary about the SWAC.
The Ivy League and the SWAC are the only Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conferences that don‘t participate in NCAA postseason play. So that NCAA sanction meant little. And whatever importance it had was virtually wiped out last basketball season when the SWAC decided to allow an APR-saddled Southern program to participate in the league‘s postseason tournament though, even if it won the tournament, it would not have been allowed to advance to the NCAA Big Dance.
Ditto for this year‘s football championship. Despite the sanctions, all four teams are eligible for the SWAC title. But that was hardly Grambling‘s main problem. The legendary program had sunk to its lowest point in history with administrative and coaching differences that saw the G-Men go through three head coaches and forfeit a game because of a player revolt last season and win just two of its last 21 games includuing just one of 17 SWAC games over the past two seasons.
Everyone (including me) and particularly the SWAC coaches had the Tigers finishing at the bottom of the West Division standings, garnering less votes than any other league team. The G-Men had no players (zero) on the first or second team preseason all-SWAC team.
The 40-year old Fobbs, a Grambling product, says he‘s following the lead of his mentor, legendary coach Eddie Robinson, who coached Fobbs and his father, Lee Fobbs, the former head coach at North Carolina A&T who now is the school‘s director of athletic operations.
“Everything that we do comes from Coach Robinson,“ said Fobbs. “Everything that comes out of my mouth or quotes deal with Coach Robinson and the way we go about doing things is the way he went about doing them. Yes, its a new age way of doing things and coaching the game but there‘s some basic things that he stood for that I won‘t get away from.“ Well, Fobbs‘s interviews are peppered with quips like ‘playing with juice‘, or ‘scratch where it itches‘ that may have originated with Robinson. Whatever it is, it‘s working so far.
OTHER SURPRISING TEAMS (What do the top three below and Fobbs have in common?) – North Carolina Central - (3-3, 2-0 MEAC) Under new head coach Jerry Mack - Eagles are tied for the lead in MEAC. – Morgan State - (3-3, 2-1 MEAC) Under new head coach Lee Hull - The Bears have lost three games by a total of seven points. – Virginia Union - (5-1, 3-0 CIAA N) Under new head coach Mark James - The Panthers sit atop the CIAA North. – Texas Southern - (5-1, 3-1 SWAC W) Under Darrell Asberrry - Tigers were the last team in the SWAC to lose.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM - Tennessee State Coming off a second-place Ohio Valley Conference finish and first FCS playoff berth since 1999, the Tigers under Rod Reed, who finished on top of the final Black College Sports Page ranking last year, were expected to challenge for the conference title and another postseason spot. Instead, the Tigers are 4-3 overall, tied for fifth in the OVC at just 1-2 and fell out of the FCS Top 25 this week for the first time this season. They have lost back-to-back seven-point OVC games to Southeast Missouri (28-21) and Jacksonville State (27-20) after losing to Alabama State (27-21) early in the season. And they still have games left with Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky, teams ahead of them in the standings, and with Murray State, one of two teams tied with them at 1-2.
OTHER DISAPPOINTING TEAMS – J. C. Smith - (1-5, 0-3 CIAA S) Under Steven Aycock - The Golden Bulls have scored four TDs in six games and only 39 total points (6.5 ppg.). They are giving up 33.2 ppg. – Howard (1-6, 0-4 MEAC) Under Gary Harrell - With the return of Harrell to the sidelines and with senior QB Greg McGhee, the MEAC offensive player of the year last season, at the controls, the Bison were supposed to challenge for MEAC honors. So far, they have yet to win a conference game.
BEST PLAYER - Jalen Hendricks, Jr., WR, Livingstone The 6-2, 205 (Nashville, NC) wide receiver for Livingstone leads black colleges in every receiving category and is among the top six in the nation (Div. II) in receptions per game (6th, 8.3), receiving yards per game (4th, 131.8 ypg.) receiving yards (4th, 791 yds.) and receiving TDs (2nd, 10). Hendricks was a 3-sport athlete at Nash Central HS, where he played in the same conference as Todd Gurley and would have been the offensive player of the year there if not for the now all-American RB from Georgia.
OTHER TOP PLAYERS Herb Walker, Jr., RB, Morgan State - The top black college rusher is third in the nation (FCS) in rushing yards per game (152.5 ypg.), 4th in rushing yards (915 yards), tied for 13th in rushing TDs (8) and 7th in rushing yards per carry (7.3 ypc.). After rushing for 9 yards in the Bears opening game, Walker has five straight games of 100+ rushing yards including two over 200 yards (271, 180, 141, 111 and 203). Recently joined Cyrus on Walter Payton Award (Best FCS Offensive Player) Watch List. Malcolm Cyrus, Sr., RB, Alabama State - Cyrus is just behind Walker in rushing yards (912), rushing yards per carry (17th, 6.29) and rushing yards per game (130.3 ypg.). Christopher Robinson, Sr., DE, Morgan State - Robinson leads all black college performers and the FCS in sacks with 11 total in six games. Tarik Cohen, So., N. C. A&T - Cohen is ninth in rushing yards (767), tied with Walker with 8 rushing TDs but is ahead of him averaging 7.3 yards per carry (5th). His 127.8 rushing yards per game average is 10th nationally in the FCS.
HOLMES COOKING Also keep your eye on the situation at Florida A&M where second-year head coach Earl “The Hitman“ Holmes is reportedly on the hotseat.
The once-mighty Rattlers are winless at 0-5 headed into Saturday‘s home date against also-winless Savannah State (0-5). It‘s the first time a Rattler team and head coach have begun the season 0-5 in school history. And, under Holmes, the Rattlers have lost seven straight home games. Ratter fans started chirping on social media about the need for a coaching change after a 48-3 drubbing at the hands of Coastal Carolina on Sept. 20. And that chatter grew louder with a 27-7 loss to Tennessee State a week later and even louder after last week‘s 24-9 loss to Morgan State, its first in conference play. Losing to Savannah State, the conference doormat at 1-23 since becoming a regular MEAC member in 2011, would likely make the noise unbearable.
A lot of times in the HBCU football world, if a team doesn't play in the CIAA, MEAC, SIAC or SWAC or if the team is not named Tennessee State that team can be forgotten about. The fact is there are 54 schools that play HBCU football, of which eight are not part of an HBCU conference nor is named Tennessee State.
When the schools are forgotten – especially if they are not winning – the players aren't as well known.
Whole heap ‘a homecomings this weekend in the SIAC, black college football
I was perusing the composite schedule of HBCU football games supplied weekly during the season by onnidan.com and was amazed at all our colleges who are celebrating their own version of “Oktoberfest” called homecoming this weekend.
I counted 15 across the country. Five of them are right here in the ole’ SIAC.
One of them is right here in the ATL. The west side of this town will be adorned with the ruffles and flourishes of Maroon and White Morehouse as the 147 year old college welcomes its graduates ( and almost grads) home as they host the 3-2 Rams of Albany State
Kickoff is 2pm.
But on the same day and in the same hour of the same weekend, Clark-Atlanta University will be hosting the Tigers of Benedict College less than a block away. For hard-core fans of Atlanta University Center-SIAC football, it presents a problem; …again; which game will you buy a ticket to? I would have thought by now that the two colleges could have worked something out so that football hungry fans who want to see both games can, without having to flip a darn coin.
I want to cover both games. Why? Because both carry a degree of significance. CAU wants to win its first division and second conference game plus add one more to its overall stats. For Morehouse, currently in second place in the SIAC’s eastern division, the game is especially crucial. A win would give the Tigers their third division victory and could propel them back into first place( first place Fort Valley, currently 2-0 in division play, hosts out-of-conference challenger Limestone College). Ya know, it’s not too late for either Morehouse or CAU to change its time (say MH at 2pm, CAU at 6pm) so that both can make some money (it’s not like they don’t need it).
Meanwhile, back at the gridiron, last weekend CAU improved its overall stack of wins to 2-4 with a convincing 41-0 victory over visiting College of Faith. Montavious Taylor , the sophomore running back from Atlanta’s GW Carver High School, had his best day of this season thus far, rushing for 187 yards and scoring four touchdowns, including a 55 yarder that came 15 seconds after the opening kickoff.
it was a sign of good things to come for the Black and Cardinal elevens. CAU scored twice more in the first period, and three more times in the second, providing them the 41 points they would need to win the game. The Saints meanwhile only penetrated into CAU territory twice. Frankly, this win really was no big surprise. The Saints, domiciled in Charlotte came to Atlanta 0-4, all shutouts, They have given up a total of 219 points to their four opponents, averaging 52.4 points a game.
Things were different (and how!) in Columbus, Georgia last weekend between Morehouse and Tuskegee. The Golden Tigers, with a healthy offensive and defensive line and the sure-arms of quarterbacks Justin Nared, Tahj Dent and Kevin Lacey who combined for 262 yards and two touchdowns to sink “dear old” Morehouse 49-0 before a crowd of 16,325 at the 79th Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic (significant since the stadium’s published capacity is 15,000).
Interestingly, Morehouse quarterback Jordan Tarver finished the afternoon passing for 208 yards alone. But aside from him and backup Joshua Harris being sacked three times, neither of their passes produced any points. Tarver, a sophomore from Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain was forced to step in for starting QB Mongavious Johnson who injured an ankle during the win over CAU a fortnight ago. Johnson may also be questionable for Saturday clash with Albany State.
The Tuskegee onslaught started in the second period after a scoreless first quarter when the Golden Tigers scored on a 91 yard drive at the alpha of the period. They then scored twice more in the period and picked up where they left off in the third, first with a 92 yard kickoff return by Atlanta native Hoderick Lowe (Grady High School) and then scoring once more with 7:24 to go in the contest. The last time Tuskegee blanked Morehouse was in 1996 (14-0) . It’s the third time since 1964 that Morehouse was whitewashed by the Goldens. In 1966, they were destroyed 93-0 and had a 29-0 loss in 1973.
Elsewhere in the SiAC, Fort Valley got by Kentucky State 36-21 despite Throrobred quarterback Adam Robinson having another red-letter day with 193 passing yards. He was also intercepted three times and sacked three times as well……Limestone took advantage of three Paine College turnovers and a 101 yard kickoff return by the host Saints to keep the Lions winless 47-30…..Albany State picked up win number three and a second straight shutout 33-0 over visiting Lane College. The star, not surprisingly was Grambling transfer Frank Rivers who passed for 290 yards and scored three touchdowns ….Miles celebrated homecoming and leaped into first place in the SIAC west via a 22-12 victory over Central State. Miles quarterback Demetrius Price led the winners with 150 passing yards and two touchdowns.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES AND PICKS
Stillman over Tuskegee
Central State over Concordia-Selma-(CSU Homecoming)
Miles over Kentucky State (KSU Homecoming)
Fort Valley over Limestone
Benedict over CAU
Albany State over Morehouse (Morehouse homecoming)
Legendary football coaches turned ADs know what they‘re doing when it comes to hiring successful football coaches
by Lut Williams
What‘s the deal with legendary black college football head coaches becoming athletic directors? One thing they all have in common as ADs is the ability to pick quality head football coaches.
Long ago, it was Mario Casem, who spent 20 years as athletic director at Alcorn State (1966-1986), most while also serving 22 years (1964 to 1985) as the Braves‘ football coach. Casem won a school-record 139 games during his time at Alcorn. He then became AD at Southern for 13 years (1986 to 1999) including a three-year run (1987-88, 1992) as the Jaguars‘ head coach.
Casem hired Pete Richardson at Southern in 1993 after three straight losing seasons. Richardson finished second in career wins to legendary Southern coach Arnett “Ace“ Mumford, posting 106 wins in 17 successful seasons (1993-2009) leading the Jags. Richardson won five SWAC championships and four black college national titles during his tenure.
More recently, at the end of a 30-year coaching career which spanned successful stints as head coach at Winston-Salem State (1976 to 1987) and North Carolina A&T State (1988 to 2003), Bill Hayes tried his hand as an AD, first at his alma mater, North Carolina Central (2003 to 2006) then on to Florida A&M (2007-08). He retired last year in the AD position back at WSSU (2009 to 2014). Hayes is the career leader in wins at A&T (106) and is second at WSSU (89).
As an AD, Hayes brought current North Carolina A&T head coach Rod Broadway to the black college ranks when he hired him to lead N. C. Central football in 2003. The Eagles had posted one winning season in the past six years. Broadway won back-to-back CIAA championships and one black college national title in his four years leading the Eagles.
When he moved on to Florida A&M, Hayes lured successful veteran Joe Taylor from Hampton to become the head Rattler. And when he returned to WSSU, after it struggled trying to join the MEAC, he brought in current Hampton head coach Connell Maynor to lead the Rams. Maynor proceeded to post a 45-6 record over the past four seasons, win back-to-back CIAA titles, earn three straight trips to the Div. II playoffs, one appearance in the Div. II national championship game and one black college national championship.
The most recent entry into the coaching legend-to-AD track is the aforementioned Taylor, who had stints as a head coach at Howard (1983), Virginia Union (1984 to 1991), Hampton (1992 to 2007) and Florida A&M (2008 to 2012)
Taylor left FAMU with a 35-18 record two years ago and wrote a book, “The Making of a Champion, Success is an Inconvenience,“ before returning to VUU as AD in December. He is the all-time winningest coach at Hampton (136), has the highest winning percentage (60-20, .740) of anyone who coached at VUU for more than two years and only trails FAMU legends Jake Gaither (.844) and Billy Joe (.651) with his .648 winning percentage in Tallahassee.
When he was named VUU AD in December, one of his first orders of business was to hire a new head football coach. The Panthers had not posted a winning season in the four years prior.
After an exhaustive search, Taylor and his committee chose VUU alumnus Mark James as the head man. Five games into the 2014 season, and headed into Saturday‘s homecoming game vs. Lincoln, James has the Panthers at 4-1 ovarall, and at 2-0 in conference play on top of the CIAA North Division.
They were picked in the preseason by league coaches to finish fifth in the six-team North Division, and were pegged as the CIAA‘s tenth best team with just two teams rated below them. Saturday‘s battle with Lincoln begins the Panthers‘ five-game set vs. North Division foes.
The last time VUU won more than five games was in 2007.
James, a former lineman at VUU who played under CIAA and Panther legend Williard Bailey, was on track to earn his Ph.D. in higher education administration this past June. The former high school coach in South Florida with a remarkable record of getting his players college scholarships, says he uses his academic accomplishments to inspire his players.
Keep your eye on James and the Panthers.
Also keep your eye on the situation at Florida A&M where second-year head coach Earl “The Hitman“ Holmes is reportedly on the hotseat.
The once-mighty Rattlers are winless at 0-5 headed into Saturday‘s home date against also-winless Savannah State (0-5). It‘s the first time a Rattler team and head coach have begun the season 0-5 in school history. And, under Holmes, the Rattlers have lost seven straight home games.
Ratter fans started chirping on social media about the need for a coaching change after a 48-3 drubbing at the hands of Coastal Carolina on Sept. 20. And that chatter grew louder with a 27-7 loss to Tennessee State a week later and even louder after last week‘s 24-9 loss to Morgan State, its first in conference play.
Losing to Savannah State, the conference doormat at 1-23 since becoming a regular MEAC member in 2011, would likely make the noise unbearable.