Alabama A&M football coach Connell Maynor often had a propensity to get on his good buddy Donald Hill-Eley during the SWAC coaches weekly virtual media video conferences, going back and forth and joking like the best friends they are.
The two last met on Saturday during the Magic City Classic, a game in which Maynor’s Bulldogs topped the Hill-Eley-led Hornets 42-28, for a fourth consecutive time.
Just days later, it was announced that Hill-Eley had been fired as Alabama State head coach. Then it was Maynor’s turn to offer words of encouragement, not friendly banter, to a personal friend no longer part of the game.
“We talked about 10 minutes this morning and he’s doing OK,” Maynor said Monday. “He understands it’s all part of it. You know when you take the (coaching) job there are only two types of coaches … coaches being hired and coaches being fired. So we talked and he’s doing OK.”
Maynor, who went 4-1 against Hill-Eley, reflected on what it was like competing versus a beloved golfing partner and football companion.
“(Going against him) It’s like going against your friends at home. You talk junk all day in school and then go to the park and play. You’ve got bragging rights until the next day when you play again. We have fun; we compete knowing we’re still going to be friends after the game. But for those three hours we have to get our teams as prepared as possible to win the game.”
Leading up the Magic City Classic, Hill-Eley spoke about the bond between the men that spanned more than two decades and what it all meant.
“Half the time we really don’t even talk about football,” he told HBCU Sports in a telephone interview. “We just talk about life, our golf games or what’s going on in the country or what’s going on around the conference.
“He’s just a good person in that job doesn’t make him who he is. He’s Maynor. He likes to laugh and joke and I like to laugh and joke. “We spend most of our time clowning on each other.”