MEAC/SWAC: Coaches in the Hot Seat

Dwight Floyd
Game Report

Last week the South Carolina State University Bulldogs and head coach Buddy Pough experienced an all-time low, losing to Delaware State and giving the Hornets their first win of the season. Buddy Pough is the elder of MEAC coaches and one of the winningest coaches in the MEAC. In 2017, he is facing one of the worst seasons he has ever had as a head coach with a 2-5 record overall, and 1-4 record in the conference. Pough entered this his 16th season with an 117-57 overall record and needs just 10 more wins to become the winningest head coach in South Carolina State history. In his first news conference of the season he stated that he thought he had a good team, but would not know until the team plays. He made a point to say that high school and the NFL coaches have an advantage that college teams don’t because unlike college teams they get to scrimmage against other teams before the season starts. Suffice it to say that this is not the team he imagined. My guess is that after all the success he’s had over years, the SCSU faithful will give him another year to turn it around.

Morgan State has sent a bevy of athletes to the NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame. From 1929 to 1973, Morgan State was accustomed to winning under just two head coaches: Eddie Hurt 1929-1959 at 173-54, and Earl Banks 1960-1973 at 95-30-2. Only two head coaches have had winning seasons since Banks departure at the end of the 1973 season. Coach Donald Hill-Eley served as head coach from 2002 to 2013, His first team had a 7-5 record and his last 5-7 with a 5-3 conference record. His overall record was 59-76. Lee Hull was named head coach following Hill-Eley. His first team finished 7-5, won a share of the MEAC championship, and played in the NCAA Playoffs. His last team finished 4-6 overall and 4-4 in the conference. He finished 11-12 overall. In 2016, current head coach Fred Farrier finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the conference. So far this season, he is 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the conference.

Practically every head coach since Alonzo Jake Gaither (1945 TO 1969; 204-36-4), resigned from the head coaching position under duress, or has been fired. Along the way Rudy Hubbard took Florida A&M University to its only and the Nation’s first FCS Championship in 1978. Head Coach Billy Joe took the Rattlers to the FCS Playoffs six times between 1996 and 2001, almost making it to the championship game in 1999. More recent, one of Black College’s winningest coaches, Joe Taylor, resigned in mid-season, and two seasons later head coach Earl Holmes was terminated midseason. Alex Wood joined the Rattlers just weeks before signing day amid a NCAA status that nullified spring practice and limited practices for the fall. This year the probation was lifted, and Wood and the fans had higher expectations. Needless to say, the Rattlers are 2-7 and seeking to find a way to win. Fans are seeing glimpses of the young talent that Wood has been able to recruit. Whoever is coaching next year at Florida A&M will likely have a winning season. We have yet to know if that will be Alex Wood.

Savannah State Tigers

Savannah State has yet to win a game this season. The head coaching position has been a revolving door, and clearly there is more going on at Savannah than just not hiring the right coach. Even though the Tigers haven’t won this season, they have been competitive in almost every game. As an outside observer I would say that they are headed in the right direction. One thing is for sure, Savannah hired a coach with a record of winning. In two stints as head coach at lower college divisions, Erik Raeburn posted records of 51-26 and 78-13. In a couple of years the Savannah State Tigers will join the Division II level where I expect the Tiger faithful, if they keep their current coach, will again experience winning seasons.

Head coach Michael Haywood joined the Texas Southern University staff on December 4, 2015. What may have attracted Texas Southern to hiring Haywood is his experience as offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and his experience taking the Miami, Ohio Redhawks from 1-11 in his first season to a conference championship the following season. In his first season with the Tigers in 2016, they finished 4-7 and were competitive in most conference games. Coach Haywood and the Tigers had greater expectations for 2017, but after 8 weeks have yet to win a game. Due to the disruption of Hurricane Harvey at the beginning of the season, I am willing to give him a pass in 2017. It’s more a matter of whether Tiger fans and officials are willing.

When Tony Hughes took the head coaching position at Jackson State University in 2016, he accepted a $130,000 dollar a year pay cut. According to one newspaper report he gave up a $400,000-dollar annual salary as an assistant at Mississippi State to become head coach at Jackson State under a three-year contract assuring $265,000 annually. In 2016, the Tigers finished 3-8. In 2017, the Tigers have yet to win a game. Hughes’ contract calls for a $100,000 buyout should he not be retained for reasons without cause before the full duration of his contract.

2012 was the last time that Arkansas Pine-Bluff had a winning season. That glorious year they ended the season 10-1 overall and 8-1 in the SWAC. They defeated every team in the SWAC except for a loss to Alabama A&M in the first conference game of the season and they beat Jackson State in their final game to win the SWAC Conference Championship. As if they weren’t supposed to be at the top, they immediately went back to their old ways with a losing record of 2-9 in 2013. They haven’t won more than four games in a season since. Monte Coleman has been the head coach since 2008 and is 2-5 so far in in 2017.

It hard to say if Rick Comegy’s coaching job is in trouble. He joined the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils in 2014 and amassed a 4-29 record the first three seasons. The Tigers are 2-5 so far this season and can match the total number of wins for the last three seasons with two more wins this season. The Delta Devils have a proud history having produced the likes of NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and David Deacon Jones. However, they have not fared well since moving up from Division II in 1980 to the Division 1 FCS level.

Brian Jenkins became head coach at Alabama State University in 2015. At Alabama, his first season was Jenkin’s best with a record of 6-5. In 2016, he finished 4-7. After coaching five games in 2017, the Tigers failed to win a game. Jenkin’s final game was an embarrassing loss on national television at which time a usually patient Alabama State administration released him and promoted Donald Hill-Eley to the interim head coaching position. I don’t know if Alabama State is a better fit for Coach Eley than Morgan State was, but don’t be surprised if he gets to keep the post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.