Baton Rouge, LA - Southern University Athletic Director, Marino H. Casem has announced his plans to retire from the position effective June 30, 1999. Known by many throughout the nation as the "Godfather of the SWAC", Casem will turn 65 on June 23, 1999 and settle in with his recently retired wife, Betty.
"I just felt it was time (to step down)," said Casem. "We came in 1986 and the goal here was to restore the program back to the luster and prominence that it enjoyed in years previous. The program needed a major overhaul, a real boost, and that's what we provided."
Casem retires after 13 years of service to the University, both as head coach of the Jaguar football program (1987, 88 and 92) and athletics director (1986-1999).
Following his very first head coaching position on the collegiate ranks, a one year stint at Alabama State in 1964 where he posted a 2-8 record, Casem continued his career at Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) member school Alcorn State where he set numerous precedents.
He served as head football coach for 22 years (1964-1986) and in the dual role of head football and athletics director for 20 years (1966-86).
He compiled a school best record of 139 wins, 70 losses and 8 ties (86-48-7 in the SWAC) as mentor of the Braves' football program, earning him a .658 winning percentage at the school.
Casem's 1984 Braves finished the regular season with a 9-0 mark and a nnmber one ranking in the NCAA Division I-AA poll, the first time a black college had ever finished the regular football season in that position.
As the school's athletic director, Casem established Alcorn State as a powerhouse in the conference, laying the groundwork for seven regular season football crowns, 13 regular season men's basketball titles and three regular season women's basketball championships.
At Alcorn, Casem argued for and saw the building of the state-of-the-art Health and Physical Education building (now the Davey L. Whitney Arena) and lobbied with state legislators and other state leaders for the building of a new football stadium complex.
Casem came to Southen University in 1986, when the SU Board of Supervisors appointed him as the school's director of athletics.
Under his guidance, Southers's Jaguars have claimed at least one conference championship in all 17 of the sponsored sports that he has overseen, while winning six of the seven Commissioner's Cup awards -- given to the most accomplished institution in the conference.
As a coach, Casem guided the Jaguars to a 19-14 overall mark (12-9 in conference play), to compile a winning percentage of .575 in three years at the helm.
Aside from the on-the-field accomplishments, the graduation rate of the University' student athletes has increased tremendously.
"Being an athletic director now as opposed to being one in the sixties and seventies has become a high-tech job," noted Caserm. "Back in 1986 when I began at Southern, the basic thing there was to get the program back in good graces with the NCAA and with the community in Baton Rouge, to increase fan support, to get credibility about the program and to stabilize the program."
"Now we are higb-tech," he added. "We have 17 sports, we have software that does the e1igibility reports, we're online and all these other computerized programs are in use now. You've got to change and progress with the times."
"One of the things that I'd like to be most remembered by is the fact that we ran a program that was fiscally sound." he continued. "At the end of every fiscal period we were in the black, we were doing well with fan support and the credibility of the program was good."
"Our kids were graduating and our teams were extremely competitive and people knew that when they played Southern University, in any sport, they had a fight on their hands."
With all the successes though, the continual struggle to better the University's athletic facilities seemed to plague Casem and his administration throughout his tenure at Southern.
"The biggest thing that I look back on is that the priorities that we established to bring on board a press box, renovations to the stadium, getting the Clark Activity Center to be user friendly for hasketball, those things lost their priority," said Casem.
"Those things need to be reestablished and brought forward again. Those things have to be a priority of the University and not just the athletics department," he said.
"There is not one institution of our size in America that will be able to generate the kinds of revenues to build stadiums and arenas. They have got to get help from somewhere else," he stated. "And being a predominantly black University, it's doubly hard to get the necessary resources to build stadiums and arenas."
"You've got to get help from the state, you've got to get help from capital improvement and it has to be a top priority of your University," he noted.