The Florida A&M alumni association’s best efforts, noble as they were, proved to be in vain as Willie Simmons appears to be accepting Manny Diaz’s offer to become his running backs’ coach at Duke University.
It is a significant pay raise and a decrease in responsibility for a young head coach who has been successful on both the SWAC West and East divisions.
Before anyone celebrates the downfall of the Highest of the Seven Hills, be clear Athletic Director Tiffani-Dawn Sykes has the backing of her administration and clearly the alumni who love being the cream of the crop of HBCU football .
She will absolutely get a coach that can carry on the success Simmons had in his three-plus seasons in Tallahassee. But who is out there that could continue the Rattler run? Is there a veteran coach who knows the SWAC, HBCU football and is widely respected by his peers available?
Of course there is. His name is Fred McNair and that should be Sykes’ first call.
McNair is currently an unwilling pawn in Texas Southern’s Keystone Kops-esque game of chess, waiting to see if his years of success at Alcorn State will be good enough for a Board of Regents that clearly has no idea what they’re doing. Or will he lose out to possibly Andre Johnson, Ed Reed or to borrow an old booking idea from the late great “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, a mystery candidate.
McNair, as we know by now, resigned his position as head coach at his Alma mater Alcorn State with the expectation that he would be hired as the Tigers’ new leader.
Instead, there have been two meetings of the Board of Regents with no end result in sight. Thursday morning, athletic director Kevin Granger announced that after the board opted to delay naming a coach, he would take a few extra days to weigh options and debate over other candidates for the position.
What a way to treat a coach who has a proven track record of success (48 wins and two SWAC championships in seven seasons), an eye for talent and a penchant for discipline to mold young men into great adults long after their football days are done.
One can be certain this treatment would not be what McNair would face at Florida A&M, long one of the gold standard programs in Black College Football that finally climbed back to the top after a 1-10 season prior to Simmons’ hiring in 2020.
FAMU is a proud institution that has high expectations for its athletics programs and as seen this week with the Simmons-A-Thon, are willing to put resources behind those expectations.
McNair would be walking into a situation befitting a coach of his stature – organized, enthusiastic, proactive, aggressive and supportive. Even if Texas Southern does offer him the job, he shouldn’t even take it; they’ve shown they really don’t want him there and as the saying goes, go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.
If FAMU hires McNair, that celebration will likely include several more trips to the Celebration Bowl and the rest of Black College Football wondering why they’re paying for another school’s sins in perpetuity.