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Croom will face pressure

By Jeffery Armstrong

Hello, friends and neighbors. Yours truly is back after going home to Texas for Thanksgiving and stuffing my face with plenty of food and lounging around the house watching college sports. In fact, I was such a couch potato that I developed a few spuds.

But even better than setting new lounging records and eating my Mom's cooking was the fact I received some good news since I've returned to Georgia: Sylvester Croom was hired by Mississippi State University as their new football coach.

For those that may not know what the fuss is about, Croom is the first African-American to be hired as a head football coach by a Southeastern Conference school. He becomes the fifth black head coach out of 117 Division I-A schools.

Now mind you, this is a huge accomplishment since the SEC has been around since 1933. So 70 years later, one of the conference schools has finally gotten its act together and hired a Black man to coach its football team. And even more of a shocker is that it's a school in Mississippi, a state never known for its great race relations.

But is it really a good thing that Croom is at Mississippi State? Yes and no. Croom was the right man for the job n his resume' is great and he's definitely paid his coaching dues in the NFL and in college.

And it was truly about time that an SEC school finally hired a man of color to coach its football team. But I guess I'm pessimistic about Croom's hire at MSU because of the school's lack of football talent and the fact that the NCAA may slap sanctions on the team. MSU does have one talented player whom I covered for two years at Lovejoy High School, Michael Heard, but he can't do it all by himself.

Croom will be under intense pressure, I believe. Will MSU be loyal to Croom and honor his contract if the team doesn't win, even with possible sanctions that wouldn't allow the team to win SEC titles? Can he persuade athletes to come to MSU with possible sanctions against it?

I would have felt even better if Croom had been hired by his alma mater, the University of Alabama. He is an Alabama native, played on the university's 1973 national championship team and coached there for more than 10 years. The football team already has sanctions against it, so Croom would know what he's getting into there. He would have been able to let the African-American recruits know his alma mater was the first SEC school to hire an African-American head football coach.

Now, what if a potential recruit has to choose between MSU and Alabama n can Croom tell that young man to stay away from his alma mater? I'm sure he can persuade a recruit without denigrating Alabama, but he shouldn't be in that position. I'm still disgusted by what Alabama did, hiring Mike Shula instead of Croom. As far as I'm concerned, the Crimson Tide can go 0-and-whatever and it wouldn't bother me. If anything, I hope Alabama loses every football game to MSU.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com.