Johnson C. Smith hasn’t posted a winning season since 2012, and recently fired longtime HBCU coach Kermit Blount after six seasons and a 14-26 performance in the CIAA during his tenure.
Who replaces Blount will develop in the coming weeks, with a list of candidates that assuredly hold current or previous coaching experience, one would presume.
But the most HBCU hiring trend has featured schools going after former NFL players with limited or no collegiate coaching chops.
Just over the last few seasons, the likes of Tyrone Wheatley (Morgan State), Rod Milstead (Delaware State), Deion Sanders (Jackson State) and Eddie George (Tennessee State) have been tabbed to take over programs, with mixed results, to say the least.
Alabama State is hoping NFL veteran Eddie Robinson Jr. can bolster the Hornets despite his lack of experience.
Herbert L. White, a columnist for the Charlotte Post, wrote Johnson C. Smith should consider continuing that movement by naming retired All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis the Golden Bulls’ next head coach.
He’s never been a coach at any level, but as a recently retired NFL linebacker with ties to Charlotte through his long career with the Carolina Panthers and philanthropy, he’s exactly what JCSU needs. I don’t know if Davis would want to coach anywhere, much less a Division II program where losing is ingrained in its culture, but somebody should inquire. Make him say no – or yes, by some miracle – and go from there.
Other HBCUs have taken a similar approach. Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Deion Sanders still has tongues wagging for taking the Jackson State gig and supplanting Grambling as the biggest fish in Black college football. Eddie George, a semifinalist for the hall, is trying to match Sanders at Tennessee State, a legendary program back in the day but an afterthought in today’s Ohio Valley Conference.
Davis isn’t as accomplished in terms of NFL on-field accolades, but he would give Smith the kind of public profile it can’t buy. Imagine having this dude walk into a high school recruit’s living room with a scholarship offer or pitching alumni about opening their checkbooks.
That’s the first step toward winning.
Who knows whether Davis, 38, would be interested in taking on the challenge of reviving a program that has struggled over the last decade. It is equally uncertain that Johnson C. Smith will target someone who hasn’t done it on any level to perform the task.
If we’ve learned anything, there is no such thing as “fit” or understanding “the culture” when it comes to schools deciding to make a move on a coach. Athletic directors are thinking outside of the box.
It’s now about what name can move the needle and position the program to take advantage of opportunities it would not normally have otherwise through fundraising and recruiting.
There is no blueprint or roadmap, though. Schools ultimately choose how they want to fail or succeed. Which direction will Johnson C. Smith agree on?