Thanks for the generous outpouring of feedback this week following our first mailbag. A quick review of the ground rules before we dive into round two. Keep it short, to the point and with a point. Include your full name and town. And remember, I get way too much mail to write you back directly. My responses here appear in italics.
Now on to The People's Voice ...
(Nov. 23: "No Bull: Floyd can coach")
You managed to change my opinion of Tim Floyd. His regime was frustrating in Chicago but it wasn't all him. His biggest mistake was taking the job in the first place. Look what just happened to Bill Cartwright.
I still don't think much of Tim Floyd. The players turned on him in Chicago. He never had the respect of the veterans. If New Orleans hits a losing streak and the veterans turn on him, Coach Floyd is gone. It's that easy.
True. But that is the case with every coach in the NBA.
As I wrote to you last week regarding the soon-to-be demise of the TCU Horned Frogs (I still think frogs are either Bull or Tree), I am here today to sing the praises of my longtime friend and fellow Hattiesburg native, Timmy Floyd.
His detractors in Chicago are ignorant and self-centered (Oakley) who were only playing in the Windy City for the cash. Timmy and I had a long talk at our 30th high school reunion in December 2002. Many other disgruntled (Artest) names came up, but Timmy was above the criticism and mostly positive when speaking of his first chance to coach in the NBA. He was embarrassed about the winning percentage as anyone would be but more frustrated because he knew he could coach at ANY level.
Timmy's dad was the head basketball coach at Southern Miss in the '50s and '60s. He's known about coaching all of his life, so when people were slamming him in the national media it angered many of his longtime friends in The Burg (also home to Brett Favre). We all knew he was a great coach but that his hands were tied.
MISSISSIPPI STATE FOOTBALL
(Nov. 30: "Making the perfect choice in an imperfect world")
It was refreshing to see a national sportswriter put in print what everyone connected with college football knows but is afraid to voice; namely, that having a black head coach is a recruiting advantage.
When I became president of New Mexico State in 1995, NMSU was arguably the worst Division I-A team in the nation, perhaps in history. We even lost to a Division II team! Then I hired Tony Samuel.
I hired him because he was the best man for the job – black, white or crimson (the Aggies' color). But I also readily admit that I wanted a black coach because I knew the task ahead was immense and we needed to recruit better athletes. How has Tony Samuel performed? Let the facts speak for themselves.
1. In 1999, after defeating Arizona State 35-7 in Tempe, NMSU was 3-0 and ranked in the top 25!
2. Samuel has won three of the last five meetings against in-state rival New Mexico. Before Samuel's arrival, the Aggies had lost 19 of the previous 21 meetings against UNM.
3. In 1999, NMSU under Samuel posted only its second winning season since 1978.
4. Last year, the Aggies had another winning record at 7-5 and were bowl-eligible.
5. In the 12 seasons immediately before Samuel's arrival NMSU had won just 15 home games, barely more than one a year.
6. Samuel's record at home during his six seasons is 15-13. The last Aggie head coach with a winning home record was a quarter of a century ago.
7. Despite the fact that the Aggies have been playing football for a century, Tony Samuel, who has been there only seven years, is the third-winningest coach in NMSU history.
8. Four of the top 12 home crowds in school history have been achieved under Tony Samuel. The highest average attendance ever (20,342) was achieved by Samuel's 1998 team.
9. The recent NCAA graduation rate report showed that New Mexico State ranked in a tie for 13th among NCAA Division I-A football programs at 76 percent.
10. Last year the Aggies went 4-2 in the Sun Belt Conference, the program's best league record since 1993.
So if you want more victories, bigger crowds and – more importantly – more athletes graduating, the surest way is to hire a black head coach. Common sense indicates that with only four black head coaches among the 117 Division I-A schools, there must be a large black talent pool to choose from.
J. Michael Orenduff
New Mexico State University
Just a comment or two on your racist article proclaiming that seemingly every woe in the world of college athletics lies at the door of opportunity for the college president smart enough to hire a black head football coach.
You know, it is people like you who seemingly find a racist point of view for every subject at hand. Mississippi State will only succeed in the tough SEC if they hire the best available coach. Whether he be black or white matters not. Black athletes and white athletes will play for whomever they think can best enhance the experience and ready them for the NFL or NBA.
Color of skin means nothing except in small minds of sportswriters looking for an angle to get their next-to-nothing stories printed. And your pointing to [Nolan] Richardson of Arkansas exemplifies what I'm talking about. He admittedly had some good teams but, as a man, he lacked quite a bit. And in the end Nolan showed what he was really made of, his departure being made into a matter of race rather than the merit of the man he wasn't.
Ron McCormick, R.Ph.
Well, I certainly didn't blame any woe of college athletics on the lack of black Division I-A football coaches. My point was clear. The right African-American coach can have a distinct advantage in recruiting African-American players. High school coaches whom I quoted backed that up. Instead of viewing race as a negative – as I believe many programs have – it should be seen as a positive. In certain cases, MSU now has a recruiting advantage over the rest of the SEC. That hasn't been the case too many times before.
You have a lot of courage. I get your point. I'm not sure everyone will. The reality is just what the high school coaches said: For some black recruits the idea of playing for a black coach will be appealing. Perhaps appealing enough to restock MSU's talent and steal recruits from traditionally stronger SEC programs.
Thanks for writing about reality and leaving the halfway stuff to other reporters.
I would think that hiring the best coach available would be in the best interest of any school or NFL [team], etc ... [whether] the coach is black or white. It also should apply to everyday applications. It would seem that playing the race card is not in the best interest of anyone.
This article is right on. A state with a large African-American population should have had a black head football coach long ago at this public school. This is a great example of how the SEC old-timers and alumni are still stuck in the 1950s.
Iowa City, Iowa
The argument you've made was the prevailing argument when Oklahoma hired John Blake. It didn't work out so well, in spite of him pulling in some good recruits.
And if Croom can't coach he'll be fired quickly, too. But if he can ...
I am devoted follower of SEC football, especially LSU. My question is, if a black coach is hired to coach a high profile team such as Alabama, LSU, Florida, etc., and he does not have success and is fired, will reporters such as yourself be screaming racism? More than likely you will.
I have never cried racism when a black coach who deserved to be fired was let go. One thing about college football: It is equal opportunity when it comes to canning guys (i.e. Frank Solich).
First of all, your comment about cheating being especially true in the SEC is totally unnecessary. Sadly, almost every major school is guilty of this in some shape or form. To single out a conference like that is not appropriate.
Second, about Mr. Croom. There is no doubt that he is the best-qualified candidate for the MSU job thus far. If that remains the case, he should be hired. Period. Not because he's black, but because he's the best candidate. Sure other black coaches have been passed over in the past, but perhaps it is because they weren't the best candidates. That is for each university to decide.
Yes, there is cheating everywhere in college sports. But no league has been caught more often than the SEC.
Your article regarding why Mississippi State should hire a black man as head football coach had many well-taken points. Unfortunately, it raises some rather sticky points as well.
Based on your article, it was all right in the '80s for black athletes to choose a university based on the ethnicity of the basketball coach, and in the present it would appear to be acceptable to you for black athletes to choose their university based on the ethnicity of the football coach.
As a white man I find it quite interesting that this form of racism is not only acknowledged but accepted, almost as if it were to be expected. The same kinds of decisions made by white kids on the basis of the race of the basketball/football/baseball/tiddlywinks coach would be decried as the most horrible form of racism and ignorance, and any white kid fool enough to admit any such thing would be hounded from the ranks of the NCAA without mercy. No amount of talent would be acceptable to preserve the kid's athletic career.
So why is it OK for black kids to practice that kind of racism and it's not OK for white kids? If it's wrong, it's wrong ... period. You had an obligation to say so in your column rather than endorsing racism by black athletes, parents, coaches.
I didn't endorse anything. I just depicted the reality of recruiting. I also have no doubt that there will be some white players who choose not to go to Mississippi State now. They won't admit it, but it will happen. As the column says, in a perfect world it wouldn't matter. This isn't a perfect world.
(Nov. 26: "Football now as American as pumpkin pie")
I enjoyed your column about Thanksgiving Day football, but there is one inaccuracy I must correct. I play in the same football division – the Bay State League – as Wellesley and Natick, and these two teams do not play on Thanksgiving. The rivalry you were speaking of is actually Wellesley-Needham, which has been going on since 1882.
After 120-plus years you'd think we could have gotten that one correct.
Enjoyed your column on the importance of football and Thanksgiving. How true. You did not mention college football and New Year's Day, however, when discussing what other holiday is so closely tied to a sporting event.
Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for the pumpkin pie trivia.
New Year's Day used to be about college football. Work off the hangover during the Cotton Bowl, start feeling half yourself again by the Rose and start knocking back some beers by kickoff of the Orange. It was a day of perfect living. But with the BCS game played on a later date, New Year's has lost its luster.
Even though I am currently living in the city of Philadelphia I and love this city with all my heart, have you considered writing a column about the complete lack of class that this city showed to Coach Larry Brown in his return? For all those people who booed Larry Brown out there, they should realize that they are living in complete absurdity. Larry Brown [is] a true competitor. And that is the very reason some of his actions are taken the wrong way. But shouldn't we Philadelphians embrace this man as a savior rather than a member of the third Reich?
President Bush should invade Cleveland next and free all the good loving Cleveland citizens from the tyranny of the losing owners of the Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers and Indians and replace them with an interim ownership!
Curtis Hinton Jr.
What a crock of s**t.
You are going to have to be more specific.
- Tony Samuel