Three Isn’t A Magic Number

By Mike Hiserman
Updated: December 1, 2008

Randy Shannon

Randy Shannon

LOS ANGELES — And then there were three.

The number of black head football coaches in major college football has been cut in half in the last month or so, with Sylvester Croom, the coach who broke the SEC’s football color barrier, the latest to go.

Croom resigned Saturday from his post at Mississippi State, after five years and one winning season.

The announcement came in a statement released by the school after Croom met with Athletic Director Greg Byrne the day after a 45-0 loss to rival Mississippi.

Randy Shannon of Miami, Turner Gill of Buffalo and Kevin Sumlin of Houston are the only remaining black men in charge among the 119 teams that play at college football’s highest level. Washington’s Tyrone Willingham and Kansas State’s Ron Prince were recently fired, with Willingham finishing up with the Huskies next Saturday.

Croom, 54, said in a statement, “We have tried to build a program the right way that can compete for conference championships. I believe the foundation has been set for those goals to be reached under the leadership of someone else, and it was my decision to resign.”

Croom is out only one year after he was voted SEC coach of the year in the wake of his team’s Liberty Bowl victory and 8-5 finish that led to a contract extension that paid him $1.7 million this year.

An All-American center under coach Bear Bryant at Alabama, Croom had been an NFL assistant for 17 seasons when in 2003 he took over a Mississippi State program that was under heavy NCAA sanctions for rules violations and had won only three games in each of the previous three seasons.

Croom’s record was 21-38, including a 4-8 mark this season, when the Bulldogs had one of the SEC’s most anemic offenses.

Even so, recruiting had gone well and the Bulldogs went into rivalry week off a 31-28 win over Arkansas.

But then came the goose egg against Mississippi in the most lopsided Egg Bowl in 37 years, a game in which Bulldogs quarterbacks were sacked 11 times leading to a loss of 51 yards in rushing.

Croom offered no explanation other than to say, “I don’t know why what happened today occurred. I’m sorry to say that it’s an absolute mystery to me.”