Jackson State went 8-1 in the SWAC in 2013 and 8-4 overall, but when the season was over, head coach Rick Comegy and the entire coaching staff sans one were fired. Why? Well, the release from the school made it pretty clear.
"We’re looking for a coach who is going to recruit local, build a local program,” university spokesperson Eric Stringfellow said in the release.
“We’re looking for somebody where discipline is a part of their DNA. And the last thing is when you look at our fan base, you look at our numbers from what they once where to where they are now, I think it’s clear that there’s some work to be done in terms of recruiting student athletes from the Jackson metro, Mississippi area.”
The historically black university made the SWAC Championship game for the second straight season. But it did so with 12 players from Jackson on the roster. And that is apparently a problem.
Though the university must feel it runs deeper than the numbers suggest. From John Talty at the Clarion-Ledger:
Jackson State is banking on a roster stacked with local players boosting home attendance numbers. Average attendance numbers actually went up this year compared to last year (17,286 from 14,462 – which ranked 15th in the FCS in 2012). But, that still leaves a lot of empty seats in a 60,492-capacity Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
And while the average number of fans attending an FCS game was 9,620 in 2012, the idea is that local fans, who might not have a natural connection to Jackson State, will flock to see local guys play at the stadium.
Here's where it gets tricky. The metropolitan area population of Jackson is roughly 540,000. Is that enough of a population base to field a competitive FCS team with mostly local players? It's not like Jackson is going to get the best players. Mississippi, Mississippi State and other SEC and FBS level schools will be at the top of the food chain. And is attendance going to increase for a team that may have more local kids but isn't as good?
Sure, Jackson State may be able to compete with low-level FBS teams for recruits, but they're not going to compete against the SEC in most, if not all cases. We'll see if the strategy works out. It's much easier to make a decision that's not based on wins and losses when you're not in one of college football's power conferences.
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