Tennessee State head coach Eddie George doesn’t make many media appearances, but he took the time to chat with former NFL player and sports talking head Shannon Sharpe about his HBCU experience.
In an interview that lasted more than 90 minutes on Club Shay Shay, George, who is entering his third season at TSU, spoke about his expectations and vision for the football program.
“The vision that I have for this program outweighs all that,” George said. “There are days when I’m driving home like…man, you know what, maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Things don’t move as fast as we would like at HBCUs. There are antiquated policies and operations you have to work through. It’s an old way of thinking.
George said his approach, unlike former Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders and Ed Reed, who had a three-week stint at Bethune-Cookman as coach before he was not retained, is a bit more cerebral than outspoken.
“I choose to approach it completely differently than blasting it out there. “I like to influence people to ultimately move us in the right direction. That’s progress. That’s to move it to elite status.”
Sharpe asked the Heisman Trophy winner whether he understood what he was getting into upon accepting the challenge of coaching at an HBCU.
“I don’t understand it. And that’s why I choose not to go in making declarations on what needs to be done,” George said. “So I can understand and listen. And then go in with a compromise on how we move this in the right direction. I choose to listen and then be understood.”
George was asked what advice he took from Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin regarding how to approach the job as a first-timer.
“First of all be yourself, he told Sharpe. Don’t try to emulate somebody else like (Bill) Belichick or Nick (Saban). They’re very successful me, he said. Be who you are. Come from your strengths. My strengths are I’m going to inspire and bring in resources from that perspective and be the CEO of the football team. That’s what I am right now. ”
When asked how HBCU coaches like George could overcome the disparities in resources for athletics, he explained that the task is bigger than one person.
“A football coach is not going to be able to change it. This goes into politics,” said George who explained that TSU recently was awarded $250 million by the state from land grant money it was owed.
But the catch, said George, was that the funds would be specifically earmarked for existing campus structures as mandated by Tennessee, not necessarily being used to construct new facilities.
“They don’t tell that to the University of Tennessee or any other school,” he said. “But why Tennessee State? … That’s the stuff I’m seeing that stops us from growing and being elite.”
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