Hampton To Name Holmes As New Grid Coach

By Marty O'Brien
Updated: December 30, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. – Jerry Holmes is the new head football coach at Hampton University, HU athletic director Lonza Hardy said Saturday night. Holmes, the Pirates’ defensive coordinator the past three seasons, replaces Joe Taylor.

Holmes will be introduced as the Pirates’ coach during a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday. The press conference will be held in the team meeting room in the football offices at Armstrong Stadium.

Taylor, the Pirates’ head coach the past 16 seasons, is leaving to become the coach at MEAC rival Florida A&M, Tallahassee.com reported Saturday afternoon. The report said that FAMU will introduce Taylor as its coach Monday.

Taylor could not be reached Saturday night to confirm whether he will accept the FAMU job. But Hampton announced Holmes as the new coach on Saturday because school officials said that Taylor had announced his intentions this week to accept another head-coaching position.

“Jerry Holmes, just like Coach Taylor, is a man with high morals and ingenuity on the football field,” Hampton president William Harvey said. “When Coach Taylor told us he was leaving, we didn’t have to look far to find a very qualified replacement.

“That individual was on the staff already.”

Taylor said Friday that he had interviewed for the vacant coaching position at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. He did not comment on FAMU.

“When I look back on my 16 years at Hampton University, I have nothing but fond memories,” Taylor said in a press release issued by HU on Saturday night. “The leadership of the university has treated me well.

“The staff, the alumni and the players who played for me all treated me like I was a member of their family.”

Taylor is the winningest football coach in HU history. He compiled a 136-49-1 record, guiding the Pirates to five MEAC and three CIAA titles. His 197-78-4 record, in 25 seasons as a head coach, is third-best among Football Championship Subdivision coaches.

“Coach Taylor is a man of great character,” Harvey said. “One of the many reasons I’ve enjoyed working with (him) over the years is because of his positive leadership.

“He has been a positive role model for hundreds of young men. He has been a true ambassador for Hampton University.”

Harvey said that Holmes, who could not be reached for comment, will sign a multi-year contract. Hampton is a private school and the administration does not reveal salary details.

Holmes, 50, brings an impressive playing and coaching rèsumé to his new position. A Newport News native, Holmes helped Bethel High win the 1974 Group AAA football title.

He played defensive back at West Virginia University, where he was team captain and later inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. He played 10 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back from 1980-91 — six with the New York Jets, two with the Detroit Lions and two with the Green Bay Packers. The head-coaching job is Holmes’ first.

He has spent the past 16 seasons as an assistant coach on the collegiate and professional levels. His six seasons as a secondary coach in the NFL include one (2001) with the Washington Redskins.

He assisted Taylor at Hampton for seven seasons, from 1992-94 and 2004-2007.

He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2005, when the Pirates went 11-0 during the regular season and led Division I-AA in scoring defense. Holmes inherits a program that went 6-5 in 2007, but was 31-5 in winning the MEAC title the previous three seasons. The Pirates should return 14 offensive and defensive starters next season.

Taylor faces a rebuilding task, either at FAMU or Western Carolina. Western Carolina has lost its past 15 Southern Conference games.

The Catamounts have employed 11 football coaches since starting the sport in 1931, and only Bob Waters (1969-88) compiled an overall winning record.

FAMU won the MEAC in 2000 and ’01 but has struggled since. The Rattlers made an ill-advised jump to Division I-A in 2003 but returned to I-AA a year later.

In 2006, the NCAA placed FAMU on four years probation for rules violations, which included improper certification of student-athletes and participation by ineligible athletes. The Rattlers finished 3-8 in 2007, winning only two of eight MEAC games.

Both Western Carolina and FAMU have experienced huge difficulties in replacing their most recent head coaches. WCU reassigned Kent Briggs on Nov. 12 and FAMU fired Rubin Carter on Nov. 20.

FAMU has since offered the head coaching job to Grambling State coach Rod Broadway and Georgia assistant John Eason. Both declined.

WCU athletic director Chip Smith offered the job to Newberry coach Zak Willis, according to published reports. Smith rescinded the offer a day later, reportedly without offering Willis an explanation.