Hall of Famer Croom: ‘Not enough progress’ for Black coaches

Dec 6, 2022, 1:52 AM | Updated: 4:05 pm
FILE - Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom yells to the team near the end of a 19-14 win over A...

FILE - Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom yells to the team near the end of a 19-14 win over Auburn in an NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., Sept. 15, 2007. Croom had a Hall of Fame career as an offensive lineman at Alabama, and was among the first Black players to become a star and team leader under coach Bear Bryant. Three decades later, Croom became the Southeastern Conference's first Black head football coach with Mississippi State. That was 2004. Since then, there have only been four others and currently there are no Black head football coaches in the SEC. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

(AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Sylvester Croom had a Hall of Fame career as an offensive lineman at Alabama, and was among the first Black players to become a star and team leader under coach Bear Bryant.

Three decades later, Croom became the Southeastern Conference’s first Black head football coach with Mississippi State. That was 2004. Since then, there have only been four others and currently there are no Black head football coaches in the SEC.

During this season’s still spinning hiring cycle, there have been 16 major college football head coaching vacancies filled. Colorado with Deion Sanders is the only school to hire a Black coach.

“No, there’s definitely not enough progress,” Croom told The Associated Press on Tuesday after a news conference with the new College Football Hall of Fame class.

“It’s almost 20 years now, and the fact that we still have to have these conversations is disappointing and it’s frustrating. But at the same time, we still have to shed light on the situation as it is and find ways to change it because a lot of good people are being denied opportunities to coach and to lead and to motivate other people. We want to get the best people. …. And doors should not be closed to them simply because of the color of their skin,” he said.

Croom was one of 18 former players being inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National Football Foundation on Tuesday night at its awards dinner.

Former Colorado star Rashaan Salaam, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1994, was inducted posthumously and represented by his mother, Khalada Salaam-Alaji.

Rashaan Salaam took his own life in 2017.

“He has received so many accolades and this really caps it off,” she said.

The rest of the class included: LaVar Arrington of Penn State; Champ Bailey of Georgia; Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech; Mike Doss of Ohio State; Chuck Ealey of Toledo; Kevin Faulk of LSU; Moe Gardner of Illinois; Boomer Grigsby of Illinois State; Mike Hass of Oregon State; Marvin Jones of Florida State; Andrew Luck of Stanford; Mark Messner of Michigan; Terry Miller of Oklahoma State; Dennis Thomas of Alcorn State; Zach Wiegert of Nebraska; and Roy Williams of Oklahoma.

The coaches inducted were John Luckhardt who was a head coach for nearly 30 years at Washington & Jefferson and California University of Pennsylvania; Billy Jack Murphy of Memphis; and Gary Pinkel, who led Toledo and Missouri.

Croom, 68, coached five years at Mississippi State, taking over a program that was headed toward NCAA sanctions at the time. The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native went 21-38 and had one winning season.

Larry Templeton, the former Mississippi State athletic director who hired Croom, said he didn’t know Croom until he interviewed him but he had gotten glowing recommendations. Templeton said he was looking for a coach with unimpeachable integrity and Croom, who had spent years as an NFL assistant, met that criteria.

Templeton said he believes athletic directors and university presidents have become so risk averse when it comes to hiring a football coach, it limits their searches.

“They’re wanting a proven commodity,” Templeton said.

The latest FBS school to fill a head coaching vacancy was UNLV, which on Tuesday announced it had hired Arkansas defensive coordinator and former Missouri head coach Barry Odom, who is white.

Croom pointed to the NFL, which has also struggled with lack of minority head coaches but has put policies in place to at least try to address the issue.

“There has to be a continued dialogue from conference commissioners,” Croom said. “I definitely think my hiring at Mississippi State was a result of a push by Commissioner (Mike) Slive to make changes and his talking not only to athletic directors, but to presidents and boards of trustees. I think that originated from him.”

Croom said he has been impressed from afar with the job Sanders did at Jackson State and is dismayed by the criticism Coach Prime has gotten for seemingly using the historically Black school in Mississippi as a stepping stone to a bigger job.

Sanders spent three season at Jackson State, winning Southwestern Athletic Conference titles this year and last.

“He’s earned this opportunity and I think his success has helped Jackson State, has helped the HBCU community, on and off the football field,” Croom said.

Croom was among the first Black players recruited to play at Alabama by Bryant. That change helped re-ignite the Crimson Tide.

From 1972-74, Croom played center on teams that finished in the top-10 every year and won three SEC championships. He was a team captain his senior year.

“The key to it was Coach Bryant,” Croom said with a smile, “because we were afraid to lose.”

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Tottenham's Harry Kane greets supporters after the English Premier League soccer match between Fulh...
Associated Press

Harry Kane has records in sight, but trophies elude him

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Harry Kane will become Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer with a goal against Manchester City on Sunday. The striker’s wait for a major trophy, however, will go on. Kane is set to surpass the late Jimmy Greaves’ club record of 266 goals, which has stood for 53 years. He is also tied […]
1 day ago
FILE- Gene Sykes claps after City Council voted 12-0 to endorse documents at the heart of its plan ...
Associated Press

USOPC: Russian pathway possible, but sanctions must remain

The new leader of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee reiterated the federation’s support for exploring a way for Russian athletes to compete at the Paris Olympics as neutrals, while insisting the current sanctions against the country remain in place. Gene Sykes, who took over for Susanne Lyons as USOPC chair on Jan. 1, wrote […]
1 day ago
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (26) celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL...
Associated Press

All-Star festivities showcase next generation of NHL stars

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — New Jersey Devils players watch from the bench often and marvel at some of the things Jack Hughes can do on the ice. “Every game, at least a couple times, I’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, that guy’s amazing,'” forward Michael McLeod said. “He just gets it done every night.” […]
1 day ago
Youth team players warm-up ahead of the Black star water polo competition held at the University of...
Associated Press

Ghana water polo grows as sport looks for more diversity

Back at the very beginning, right when the idea of water polo in Ghana started swimming into reality, Asante Prince got out a couple of balls and caps in front of a handful of curious kids. He decided to try a scrimmage, but he had no nets. So they put a soccer bench on each […]
1 day ago
FILE - Austria's Katharina Liensberger speeds down the course during the first run of an alpine ski...
Associated Press

Austrian ski team aims to rediscover its magic at worlds

VIENNA (AP) — Only one skier in the 24-member Austrian squad for the upcoming world championships has won on the Word Cup circuit this season. A star coach left the women’s team mid-January. And “crisis” has become a common word on the ski-mad nation’s sport pages. Has the once dominating “Wunderteam” from Austria lost its […]
1 day ago
FILE - Workers prepare to remove giant Olympic rings from the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park...
Associated Press

Tokyo Olympic bribery scandal rolls on; company apologizes

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese company embroiled in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic corruption scandal said Thursday it would strengthen oversight to prevent further wrongdoing. Kadokawa “seriously betrayed public trust,” company president Takeshi Natsuno said. He bowed deeply with two other executives to show remorse in a news conference. Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, the son of the founder, […]
1 day ago
Hall of Famer Croom: ‘Not enough progress’ for Black coaches