Tag:Sylvester Croom
Posted on: January 16, 2012 2:06 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 2:18 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality


Posted by Bryan Fischer

When milestones are being broken and they lack notoriety, does that make them less of a milestone?

It's an intriguing question to ask on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with regards to the hiring of African-American head coaches in college football.

In the case of new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, perhaps it is best to see the arrival of yet another black coach - to the SEC no less - not as a milestone in itself but rather as a significant sign of progress with how far the sport has come. King's famous "I have a dream" speech 49 years ago called for racial equality along with an end to discrimination and, when looking at this hire, that seems to be truer now than it was just three or four years ago.

"I think it's significant progress," Sumlin said last week at the AFCA Coaches Convention about the lack of race being brought up with regards to his hire. "I can remember four or five years ago when I was hired at Houston, 'The first... the first... the first...' I said at the press conference that my hope five, six, seven years from now that it wouldn't even be a topic of discussion."

As Birmingham News columnist Jon Solomon notes, The Associated Press didn't mention Sumlin becoming the first black head football coach at Texas A&M until the 11th paragraph. While it's certainly possible Sumlin's hire might have brought up the discussion behind closed doors in College Station, there was no dwelling on his skin color when making the hire in public. Race was mentioned in passing because it wasn't a positive or negative in filling the job because Sumlin was judged on his merits as a head coach.

"They only talk about coaches two ways, moving on and getting hired or moving out and getting fired," he said with a chuckle. "When it gets to those deals now, race isn't part of the discussion."

Kentucky head coach Joke Phillips (above) played Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin in 2011 in the first ever meeting of two black coaches in the SEC. (US Presswire)
Sumlin will be the SEC's third black head coach when A&M moves to the league officially, joining Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Vanderbilt's James Franklin. Last season he was one of 19 Division I (excluding historically black institutions) minority coaches, up from just 11 in 1996. Beyond just numbers increasing, more and more assistant coaches are getting looks at top jobs around the country and it's not limited to smaller schools. Stanford's David Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh and led the Cardinal to a BCS bowl while Franklin improbably took the Commodores to a bowl game in his first year with essentially the same squad that went 2-10 prior to his arrival.

That Sumlin moves from Conference USA to the nation's best league without much fanfare is much different from when Mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom and a positive sign that perceptions have changed just as reality has. Former Arkansas coordinator Garrick McGee took the head job at UAB to become the first black head coach at a major school in the state of Alabama, just as Sumlin became in the state of Texas. The moves are notable in their significance but also significant because they have not been noted with the attention they would have had not too long ago.

Unlike the NFL, where the Rooney Rule (instituted in 2003) has mandated teams interview minorities for openings, college hires have been left up to athletic directors and presidents' discretion. Though they are not forced to, many are giving some of the 479 black assistants in college football (as of the 2010-11 season) an interview without so much as a second thought about their race because of what they've accomplished on the field.

"I think any success I've had or can have helps the process," said Sumlin, proudly pointing out the SEC logo on his Texas A&M polo. "I think it's important that it is something that isn't being talked about. That is real progress."

Though the stark contrast between the number of black players in Division I (46%) and head coaches (less than 20%) remains a wide gulf, it is becoming less noticeable with each passing offseason. According to the NCAA, not only has there been increases in opportunities for coaches, but there has also been a broader distribution of those opportunities in other areas such as athletic administration and at the coordinator level.

In the case of Sumlin and others over the past few years, the best stat about them is that they are not talked about as one. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that is certainly something to note as a sign of progress and a true milestone in the sport.
 

Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:27 am
 

Bill O'Brien may stay with Pats past Signing Day

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Penn State is expected to announce the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien on Saturday, according to CBSSports.com NFL reporter Mike Freeman. That brings a merciful end to the Penn State coaching search, as the PSU job was the last to be filled in all of the FBS.

The thing is, however, if reports are true, O'Brien won't be on Penn State's campus immediately -- and the wait could potentially extend past a very important deadline. According to Boston Herald Patriots beat reporter Ian Rapoport, O'Brien will remain the Patriots' offensive coordinator throughout the playoffs. And while the NFL playoffs start this weekend, the Patriots' season won't be ending so soon. New England is the top seed in the AFC, meaning the Patriots have a bye week this week, and are the favorite to make it to Super Bowl XLVI.

Penn State fans should be rooting for an early upset for the Pats, though, because if the Patriots do make it to the Super Bowl, O'Brien's going to be a member of that staff until February 5. That date is important, because Signing Day -- the first day that college football recruits can sign letters of intent with their preferred school -- is the preceding Tuesday, February 1. Now, top seeds are hardly locks to make the Super Bowl in today's NFL, but the Patriots under Bill Belichick have one of the best track records in the playoffs of any NFL franchise over the last decade or so.

O'Brien is expected to do some recruiting while he's still with New England, and he wouldn't be the first coach to pull double-duty like this; Rapoport also noted on his feed that Charlie Weis did so at New England as he prepared to take over Notre Dame, and Sylvester Croom was similarly stretched between Green Bay and Mississippi State when he was first hired. Unfortunately, as Rapoport also noted, such double duty hampered the coaches' first recruiting classes considerably, and it's also worth noting that both coaches were fired after five seasons -- right when that first recruiting class would have been full of redshirt seniors.

It would then behoove Penn State to retain Tom Bradley (the defensive coordinator-turned-interim coach who has led the team since the Penn State Board of Trustees fired longtime coach Joe Paterno on November 9 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal) and offer him his old position as defensive coordinator, much in the same way that Ohio State has honored interim head coach Luke Fickell since the hiring of Urban Meyer. That way, Bradley can also focus his efforts on recruiting and salvage a Penn State class that by Big Ten standards is mediocre, and by Penn State standards is subpar.

It does not portend well for Bradley's future with Penn State, however, that the only word from him was that he had not been told of any hiring plans by the school as of Thursday night, according to Blue White Illustrated. If Bradley is not motivated to remain committed to the recruiting trail for Penn State while O'Brien tries to balance recruiting and coaching the Patriots for however long New England's season lasts, Penn State's recruiting class will undoubtedly suffer, and that's another hurdle that this suddenly flailing program does not need to have added to the race ahead.

For more breaking news on Penn State, follow the team's RapidReports by Jim Rodenbush.

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Posted on: November 10, 2011 1:23 pm
 

Phillips vs. Franklin a coaching landmark for SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's not No. 1 vs. No. 2. But with virtually nothing in the way of fanfare, Vanderbilt and Kentucky will become just as big a part of SEC history when they meet in Nashville this Saturday.

Why? Because thanks to the Commodores' James Franklin and the Wildcats' Joker Phillips, the game will mark the first-ever SEC matchup between two African-American head coaches.

Sylvester Croom
famously became the league's first African-American head coach at Mississippi State in 2004, but resigned the position before any other minority hires were made in the conference--Phillips is the league's second, Franklin the third.

Speaking to SBNation's Steven Godfrey after practice Wednesday, Franklin said that with his team fighting for bowl eligibility, the historic nature of the game hasn't even occurred to him:
"Today is the first time I've heard or thought about it, honestly ... I hope we can get to the point real soon where it's not even a discussion point. But I also understand the signifigance of it, and I'm proud to be here with Vanderbilt, and proud that it's Joker. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him. I've known him for a long time and I know who he is as a man."

"If this was 20 years ago, this game would be a bigger story, but that only means we're headed in the right direction."
This is true, but the fact that this particular bit of history is being made in a Vanderbilt-Kentucky game is a sign that there's still a long way to go; it's simply not a coincidence that the SEC's three African-American coaches to date have gotten their shot at the three universally acknowledged least-desirable jobs in the league. Still only 8 of 66 BCS conference head coaching positions (12 percent) are held by African-Americans.

But as Franklin points out, that it's taken until Thursday for anyone to notice that this substantial a milestone is being passed is a good indication that progress is being made. Given where the SEC was not so long ago, we think the league will take it.
Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings show SEC stability

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When it comes to the SEC and coaching turnover, there's reputation, and there's reality.

The reputation is that with a heaping help of pressure from the nation's most rabid fanbases, the nation's most cutthroat conference hires and fires head coaches on the slightest of whims, for the most gentle of disappointments. And certainly, there have been some head-scratchers over the years, like David Cutcliffe's sudden dismissal from Ole Miss or Houston Nutt's tumultuous departure from Arkansas despite years of success.

But as illustrated by Dennis Dodd's CBS Hot Seat Ratings, since the 2008 season -- and the surprising exits of long-tenured Auburn and Tennessee head coaches Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer, as well as Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom -- the league that supposedly sees its head coaches change with the wind has in fact become a model of relative stability. Collectively, the SEC has fired just a single coach the past two seasons--Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell, himself only hired as a last-minute replacement following Bobby Johnson's retirement.

Four other coaches have left the league in that span, but all of them -- Urban Meyer at Florida, Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, Rich Brooks at Kentucky and Johnson -- did so voluntarily, and in Brooks's case the seamless transition to coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips barely even qualifies as a "coaching change."

That newfound reticence to put coaches on the firing line is reflected in Dodd's ratings, which show just one current SEC coach rated above the median "on the bubble" 3. You get one guess who:

Alabama Nick Saban 0.0
Arkansas Bobby Petrino 1.0
Auburn Gene Chizik 0.0
Florida Will Muschamp 0.5
Georgia Mark Richt 3.5
LSU Les Miles 2.5
Mississippi Houston Nutt 3.0
Mississippi State Dan Mullen 0.0
South Carolina Steve Spurrier 0.0
Kentucky Joker Phillips 1.5
Tennessee Derek Dooley 3.0
Vanderbilt James Franklin 2.0

Assuming we don't have some unforeseen three-win meltdown with Nutt in Oxford, there's a very real possibility the SEC enters 2012 with the same 11 head coaches listed above. Richt is -- without question -- the SEC coach in the most trouble, but he's also a coach with an extremely favorable 2011 schedule, a wealth of talent on hand, and perhaps the most patient administration in the conference.

And if Richt's still here, who won't be? The Spurrier retirement rumors have been securely put to bed with the arrival of recruits like Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney. A big 2010 has Miles back on (mostly) firm footing; it'll take multiple down years (or a grass overdose) for him to earn a pink slip. Dooley has at least another couple of seasons with the benefit of the doubt (if we may quibble with Dodd's "3"). And while the aforementioned meltdown might do the trick for Nutt with the Rebels, between his track record and the back-to-back Cotton Bowls -- not something that happens on the regular in Oxford -- he almost certainly has another season of rope.

The most likely coach to keep the SEC from going 12-for-12 in the retention department isn't likely to be fired at all, in fact; it's Dan Mullen, who could be one more sterling season in Starkville away from getting the kind of megabucks, keystone program offer the Bulldogs just can't quite match.

But the guess here is that Dodd, overall, is entirely correct--if Mullen stays put and Richt can salvage eight or nine wins, there's not enough heat under the SEC seats to expect a coaching change anywhere in the league's 12 head coaching positions.


Posted on: February 7, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Report: Mike Groh is 'Bama's new WR coach

Posted by Tom Fornelli

It would appear that Alabama's search for a new wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator is over, as according to a report on BamaOnline.com, Mike Groh is returning to Tuscaloosa to take the job.
A year after studying the Nick Saban way of coaching, Mike Groh is coming back to the University of Alabama to serve as his wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
Sources tell BamaOnline that Alabama is expected to announce his hiring this week. 
Groh, who spent last season at Charlie Strong's quarterbacks coach at Louisville, will replace Curt Cignetti, who was named the new head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Groh spent 2009 as a grad assistant with Alabama after spending eight years as an assistant under his father, Al Groh, at Virginia. Al Groh coached alongside Nick Saban with the Cleveland Browns. Mike Groh gets the job over a number of other coaches who had been rumored for it, including former Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom, former Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster and former Clemson offensive coordinator Bill Napier just to name a few.
Posted on: February 4, 2011 4:14 pm
 

Sylvester Croom won't be joining Saban's staff

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Former Mississippi State head coach and current St. Louis Rams running backs coach Sylvester Croom met with Nick Saban last weekend to talk about the lone opening on the Alabama coaching staff, as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. While it seemed that Croom had a good shot at landing the job, he told the Tuscaloosa News on Friday that he was no longer in the running and would be staying with the Rams.

"It was a very intriguing opportunity that Coach Saban and I discussed," Croom said. "My visit was more of a get-to-know-you with Coach Saban and the staff. It was a great visit. I really enjoyed it.

"I mentioned to him if certain possibilities developed I would be interested. That's how the visit came about. Just looking at the possibility when I was down there, he was not positive which way to go with the position that was open."

Croom, of course, played at Alabama under Bear Bryant and then spent a few years as an assistant on Bryant's coaching staff as well. According to the report, current Louisville quarterbacks coach and former Alabama grad assistant Mike Groh is now the frontrunner for the job.
 
 
 
 
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