Photo: Eddie Robinson Jr./Alabama State Athletics

With less than a week remaining before the early signing period, SWAC schools have made a flurry of hires in anticipation of what is expected to be a busy and eventful offseason.

SWAC bluebloods Grambling State and Southern made notable coaching moves while Alabama State — a program that has been on the fringe of contention in recent years — tabbed a relative coaching unknown to lead its program.

The result of it all will lead to one of the most anticipated seasons in conference history, with legions following along in what is developing into a coaching cradle.

Here is our attempt at grading the hires made so far by SWAC schools.

Eddie Robinson Jr., Alabama State: D

Photo: Eddie Robinson Jr./Alabama State Athletics

After parting ways with longtime HBCU coach Donald Hill-Eley, Alabama State went outside of the box — may be too far outside the box — naming former Hornets and NFL player Eddie Robinson Jr. its next head coach.

While Robinson was a great player for the program more than 30 years ago, winning SWAC Defensive Player of the Year and was featured in the All-SWAC team multiple times, there is no documented coaching history at any level.

Though this move was almost immediately considered on the surface influenced by hires of Deion Sanders at Jackson State and Eddie George at Tennessee State on the merit that neither former pro player featured collegiate coaching experience.

But Robinson doesn’t have the personality or influence of Sanders and George to suggest a similar trajectory might be forthcoming. Alabama State took a step back and made what appears to be a desperate reach.

Hue Jackson, Grambling State: B

Hue Jackson, new head coach at Grambling
Image: Grambling State

Over the last five seasons, Grambling has been floundering after an appearance in the Celebration Bowl in 2017, going 16-21 overall and 11-15 in the SWAC. Much of the struggles during that period — particularly in 2021 — could be attributed to an offense that ranked next to last in the conference in total offense and used as several quarterbacks during the regular season, including highly-touted freshman Noah Bodden.

Hue Jackson makes sense for the Tigers because of his reputation in developing quarterbacks at both the college and NFL levels. During his lone season at Tennessee State as offensive coordinator this fall, the TSU offense ranked No. 5 in scoring, No. 5 in total offense, and No. 2 in passing offense in the Ohio Valley Conference.

It doesn’t hurt that Jackson first ingratiated himself to the HBCU landscape before accepting a head coach job within Black college football. That experience, though brief, can go a long way in making inroads with recruits.

Being an ex-NFL head coach gives Jackson instance credibility despite his 11-44 record between the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.

While Grambling might not win right away, having Jackson onboard is a step in the right direction.

Eric Dooley, Southern A

Eric Dooley
Photo: Southern University Athletics

Southern needed to make a big-time hire after Dawson Odums left for Norfolk State following the spring season.

Jason Rollins assumed the interim role in part because he was well-respected within the program. But the results on the field simply did not carry over. Southern finished a disappointing 4-7, losing its last three, including the Bayou Classic to Grambling.

What plagued the Jaguars in 2021 was its inability to finish. The hire of Eric Dooley, who turned around Prairie View, leading the Panthers to the SWAC Championship Game, was the move Southern needed to make going forward. It could not have been a better development for the program.

Dooley has a championship pedigree from stints as a successful assistant at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling, and Southern before navigating Prairie View to a SWAC West Division championship.

Southern should be immediately contending for the division crown next season and for many years to come.


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