Mississippi Valley State has a problem all black colleges — and all colleges in general — should have.
It began 2010 with a predicament most colleges would kill for — five potential head football coaches with enough prior coaching experience to adequately take over for Willie Totten, who resigned late last year.
The Delta Devils narrowed down their search for a new head football coach from 25 hopefuls to five finalists, all of whom bring extensive credentials and even pro experience to the table. The list had been narrowed down to four candidates until the last-minute addition of Stillman head football coach Lawrence “L.C.” Cole to the crush.
All of the candidates will have been interviewed by Mississippi Valley president Donna Oliver and interim director of athletics Donald Sims by close of business today.
Of the five candidates, four — Charlie Brown, Karl Morgan, Sam Washington and Cole — played in the NFL. Two — Brown and Washington — worked as assistant coaches with MVSU in the past.
Brown was an NFL receiver with the Washington Redskins from 1981-84 and won a Super Bowl ring with them in 1982. He later spent time with the Atlanta Falcons (1985-89). Though he is currently the head coach at Savannah (Georgia) High School, he has head coaching experience from his time with the Myrtle Beach Stingrays of the Professional Indoor Football League and with the Florence Phantoms of the Arena Football League.
Morgan was defensive coordinator for North Alabama, one of the top programs in the NCAA’s Division II, meaning, most likely, that he would probably want work in a Division I (FBS or FCS) program. Before working at North Alabama in 2001, he compiled work as an assistant coach at Nicholls State, Southern, Purdue, Arkansas State, Alcorn State and Hampton, all Division I-level programs. In the NFL, he was a defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Washington is an assistant coach with Grambling State. He is also an NFL veteran, having spent four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His college resume includes assistant coaching stints with Bethune-Cookman, Johnson C. Smith, North Carolina Central, North Carolina A&T and Mississippi Valley, where he served as defensive coordinator.
Richard Wilson is hoping to jump from a three-year head coaching stint at Arkansas Baptist, a private HBCU in Little Rock in the NAIA, to a more prominent program at MVSU. Besides ABC, Wilson was an assistant coach at The Citadel, Arkansas and Clemson. He served as assistant head coach at Eastern Michigan, Oklahoma State and Minnesota.
Of the five, the weakest might be L.C. Cole, head man at Stillman. Though he was the American Football Coaches Division I-AA Coach of the Year and Street & Smith’s Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, both in 1999, he is jumping from a school where he was named head football coach only a year ago this month. Despite increasing Tennessee State’s student-athlete graduation rate from 17 to 98 percent during his four years as head coach, he might be handicapped by leaving Stillman in the lurch with his last-minute jump into the MVSU coaching decision.
In addition to heading Tennessee State, where he won back-to-back titles at the Ohio Valley Conference’s only black school, he was head man at Alabama State and assistant coach with Lane, Concordia-St. Paul and Morgan State. He did play briefly for the New York Jets as strong safety.
“Even with the resources that we have, our goal is one, to be competitive in athletics and be leaders in the professional world,” Sims told Onnidan Online.
With such strong candidates, it appears that Sims will be on his way to meeting the Delta Devils’ goal.