Saturday, December 23, 2006

Grambling's 2004 coaching search

GSU set to crank up bid for coach
Former Alabama St. coach among early applicants

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - New Grambling State athletics director Willie Jeffries arrives on campus this week, set to begin going through a growing stack of resumes for a head football coach.

The News-Star has confirmed several applicants, including interim GSU coach Melvin Spears.

"I did that on the first day (the job was posted)," said Spears - the former offensive coordinator who took over for Doug Williams in February, then led GSU to a 6-5 record during an injury-marred season. "I haven't heard from anybody. I guess they'll start when school gets back in (today)."

New school president Horace Judson has indicated that the interview process would begin in early January. GSU's timetable is tightened by the recruiting season, which culminates with National Signing Day on Feb. 2.

Another confirmed applicant is from outside the GSU family, former Alabama State coach L.C. Cole.

"I have applied, but I have not talked to anyone officially," said Cole, who was released by ASU amid accusations of NCAA violations - including improper contact with recruits, funding a strip show for recruits and knowingly practicing ineligible athletes.

Alabama State school president Joe Lee later cleared Cole of several of those allegations - but Cole had already gotten a job as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Concordia University, a Division II program in St. Paul, Minn.

"I did a lot of good things in the (Southwestern Athletic Conference) and I wouldn't mind getting back into it," Cole said. "Grambling needs someone who could go in there and get going. That's why I think I would be a strong candidate."

Cole and Concordia head coach Mark Mauer played together at the University of Nebraska, a program which also has produced a possible applicant in longtime former assistant Turner Gill. Gill could not be reached on Tuesday.

Lee Fobbs, a finalist to replace Eddie Robinson in 1998 when Williams was hired, also confirmed on Tuesday that he has applied. But he has also not been contacted about an interview.

"I haven't talked to anyone as of yet," Fobbs said by phone during a recruiting trip for Texas A&M, where he is running backs coach. "I don't know what's going on."

Fobbs might also stay at Texas A&M. The school has announced that a contract extension for Aggies head coach Dennis Francione and his assistants is in the works, and could be completed as early as the end of the month.

Meanwhile, former GSU assistant Dennis "Dirt" Winston - whose name was among the first mentioned by fans as a possible applicant - has emerged as a finalist in the Tennessee State University search for a head coach.

"You make decisions based on who wants you," said Winston, who coached Toledo's defensive line in a 30-10 loss to Connecticut in last month's Motor City Bowl. "Tennessee State is a job similar to Grambling. They are also looking for a high-profile coach."

Several men have already applied for the head coaching job at Grambling State:
· Melvin Spears: Current interim coach at GSU.
·L.C. Cole: Former head coach at Alabama State, now assistant at Concordia Univ. (Minn.).
· Lee Fobbs: Running backs coach at Texas A&M; former LSU assistant.
Other possibles candidates: Turner Gill (former Nebraska assistant), Dennis Winston (defensive line coach at Toledo), Albert Lewis (assistant with San Diego Chargers) and Anthony Jones (Alabama A&M coach).

g g g

National spotlight shines on GSU job

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - Grambling State's search for a head coach has already attracted its share of attention - from interested alumni to football Web sites.

Nebraska assistant Turner Gill was mentioned as a possible applicant in a Wednesday update on, an Internet forum frequented by college coaches.

"I'm just now hearing about it," said Gill, who has already interviewed for the New Mexico State job.

He's never been a coordinator, but served as Nebraska's assistant head coach in 2003. Gill announced his resignation after 13 years with the Huskers earlier this month, saying he wanted to pursue head coaching positions full time.

"In praying about it, if they (GSU) were interested in me, I would be interested in them," said Gill, a former All-Big Eight quarterback at Nebraska. "But right now I am putting my full energy into getting the job at New Mexico State. I'm waiting to hear back from them."

Gill has been contacted about jobs over the years by programs as diverse as UCLA, the Miami Dolphins and the Green Bay Packers. He interviewed for the Missouri head coaching vacancy in 2000. Two years before that, Gill turned down coach Bob Stoops' offer to become the Oklahoma offensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, a group of ex-athletes has met with GSU president Horace Judson to encourage him to select a Grambling State graduate as the next head coach, if interim coach Melvin Spears is not retained. They recommended Lee Fobbs, a former All-American under Eddie Robinson who is now an assistant at Texas A&M.

Spears finished his interim tenure at 6-5, posting GSU's 51st non-losing season since 1945 - but only with a win in the finale over Southern.

Another GSU alum says this flurry of early attention, coupled with scrutiny over the selection process, is to be expected.

"I do think it's a tough position for a coach," said Kaycee Doyle Jr., a 1977 graduate. "But that just comes with the territory. As a GSU alum, we've grown accustomed to being at center stage more often than not. So, you live and die by the same hand. The bar is high and the expectations are great; that will never change at Grambling. No one is immune from scrutiny because of past achievements, as evidenced by the situation (late in the career of) Eddie Robinson. Consequently, losing seasons are not an option and flirting with mediocrity has an imminent outcome."

Judson posted the job last week, and said he intends to name a permanent replacement by mid-January.

"The thing the Grambling coach has to do is come in and have a presence," said former GSU assistant Dennis "Dirt" Winston, one of the first names mentioned as a possible applicant. "Grambling is a university that needs national attention, because it has always had that."

Winston said he has not applied for the Tigers' top spot - and he is now one of five finalists for the Tennessee State football coaching vacancy.

Winston - in his fourth season at Toledo, and second as the defensive line coach - earned his master's degree in sports administration from GSU in 1994. His daughter, Bianca Turquoise Winston, is also a senior at Grambling.

"I'm working for a very good coach here, but the one thing about (the Grambling job) is it gets me back home," said Winston - who is preparing for Toledo's upcoming meeting with Connecticut in the Motor City Bowl on Monday. This will be Toledo's third appearance in the Detroit, Mich., game in the last four seasons.

"Our offense is wide open, similar to Grambling's," said Winston. "If it did get that job, the thing I would bring is a new defensive mindset. I'm a defensive guy; that's what I know. You already have a good football team, but then people would fear you. They would know they can't hold on to the football long."

Winston played linebacker at the University of Arkansas from 1973-76, and was selected to the Razorbacks' All-Century Team in 1994. He was then selected by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 1977 NFL draft, and appeared in Super Bowl victories in 1978 and 1979.

Winston also played three seasons with the New Orleans Saints from 1982-84, and has had previous coaching stints at Arkansas (1997-98), Norfolk State (1994-95) and Arkansas State (1989-91). That experience is coupled with two stops as an assistant under Eddie Robinson in 1992-94 and then 1995-97.

g g g

GSU search still ongoing; Nebraska's Gill official applicant

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - New Grambling State athletics director Willie Jeffries could start interviewing candidates for head coach as early as next week. But other business called school leaders away on Friday.

GSU president Horace Judson was in Baton Rouge for a regularly scheduled meeting of the University of Louisiana System Board - where several matters were under consideration, including a student-housing plan.

Interim coach Melvin Spears, who returned on Friday from a recruiting trip to Texas, has not yet heard from Jeffries or Judson about an interview, he said.

"I have just been going about the job they've hired me to do - build this program," said Spears, whose contract actually expired at the end of 2004. "That's all I can do."

The News-Star has confirmed that former longtime Nebraska assistant Turner Gill has applied by fax, though his credentials don't appear to match the school's stated job requirements.

The GSU position was posted on Dec. 14, and specifically mentions the need for "significant experience in athletic program management, at or above the level of coordinator."

Perhaps the last tie to the Tom Osborne era at Nebraska, Gill was an assistant head coach under Frank Solich, but has never run an offense or defense. He resigned in December after 25 seasons as a Huskers player or coach to pursue a head coaching position.

"I'm still interested," Gill said, when asked about the job at Grambling State. "But I don't wish to comment any further at this time."

Former GSU All-American Lee Fobbs - now running backs coach at Texas A&M - has also applied. A 29-year veteran, Fobbs has been a position coach on both sides of the ball over the years at Alabama, Baylor, Minnesota, Southern Miss, LSU, Tulane and Louisiana-Monroe.

His most pertinent experience came at the high school level: Fobbs was head coach and athletics director at Carroll, after serving as offensive coordinator at Wossman.

"I have been around some great minds and some guys that have been very, very successful," said Fobbs, a Monroe native. "I have been blessed to be a part of these things. All of those lessons have made me better."

L.C. Cole, who built a successful program at Alabama State, is another applicant. ASU has advanced to two consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference championship games since Cole left as head coach, winning once.

"If you look at Alabama State, there was a gold mine for the next coach," said Cole, now defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Division II Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn. "It would be very interesting to face my old school. I would take a great pleasure in getting the opportunity."

Cole was dismissed by ASU officials but was eventually cleared of several alleged NCAA violations.

g g g

GSU to make it permanent with Spears

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - Grambling State University will name interim coach Melvin Spears as the permanent replacement for Doug Williams at an 8 a.m. news conference today on campus.

"I'm humbled by the opportunity," said Spears, who served on Williams' staff as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. "Just to be able to coach at such a historically significant institution is an honor in itself. To be head coach, well, it's something even more special."

Williams resigned in February after six seasons as head coach at GSU to take a job as a personnel executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Terms of Spears' contract have yet to be finalized, he said.

Spears finished 6-5 over the course of an injury-marred interim season, but finished with a flourish - beating in-state rival Southern in the nationally televised Bayou Classic.

"I think everyone is excited," said Carroll High product Brandon Landers, who took over for the injured Bruce Eugene and earned conference freshman of the year honors. "He deserves a chance to see this thing through."

Spears was one of three finalists interviewed since Friday by a four-person committee headed by new GSU president Horace Judson.

The other finalists were Texas A&M running backs coach Lee Fobbs, a Monroe native who was an All-American under former GSU coach Eddie Robinson; and Alabama A&M head coach Anthony Jones, who played for and later coached with GSU athletics director Willie Jeffries at Wichita State and South Carolina State respectively.

Other applicants included Jerry Glanville, a former coach at the NFL's Houston and Atlanta franchises; Lucious Selmon, an All-American at Oklahoma in the early 1970s; and Ramon Flanigan, offensive coordinator at North Texas.

"There were some impressive candidates," Spears said. "I feel blessed to be able to carry on the legacy."

After Jones withdrew Tuesday night, Spears met again with GSU officials on Wednesday afternoon. The original interviewing committee included Judson and Jeffries, along with Robert Dixon, GSU's vice president of academic affairs; and Joyce Montgomery, the faculty athletic representative.

g g g

Second bid just as close for Fobbs

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - Former Grambling State All-American Lee Fobbs, now a running backs coach at Texas A&M, has apparently finished second for his alma mater's head coaching position again.

GSU is expected to name interim head coach Melvin Spears as the permanent replacement for Doug Williams at an 8 a.m. news conference on campus today. Fobbs was runner-up to Williams in the 1997 search to replace former GSU coach Eddie Robinson, a mentor to both.

Former athletics director Albert Dennis III also contacted Fobbs before GSU decided to grant an interim season to Spears after Williams' sudden resignation last February.

"I thought the interview went well," said Fobbs, who was leaving for a regularly scheduled recruiting trip on Wednesday night for the Aggies. "But they have not contacted me again."

The Monroe native has developed a close working relationship recently with head coach Dennis Franchione, who kept him on staff after leaving Alabama for A&M. They coached the Aggies to the Cotton Bowl last season, Texas A&M's first New Year's Day game in six years.

As a collegiate football player at Grambling State from 1968-72, Fobbs earned all-conference and All-America honors as a senior under legendary coach Eddie Robinson. He was an eighth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, and went on to play professionally in the Canadian and World football leagues.

A 29-year veteran in the coaching ranks, Fobbs has also had three local stops. He coached the defensive line at Louisiana-Monroe, was head coach at his alma mater Carroll High School and offensive coordinator at Wossman High.

While Fobbs was at Alabama, the offense ranked second in the SEC in 2002, and led the conference in rushing in 2001. The Crimson Tide advanced to the 2001 Independence Bowl and posted the best record in the SEC West in 2002 with Fobbs on staff.

GSU's coaching search
Here are a few previously unconfirmed applicants from the approximately 30 who sought the GSU head coach position:

· Ramon Flanigan, offensive coordinator at North Texas. While he is the youngest offensive coordinator in Division I-A, the Mean Green has reached the New Orleans Bowl for four consecutive seasons.

· Jerry Glanville, a football analyst for CBS and HBO who previously coached both the Atlanta Falcons and the Houston Oilers - where he led the former NFL franchise to the playoffs for three consecutive years.

· Harold Johnson, who was fired at Hampton University in early December after two consecutive 2-8 seasons.

· Lucious Selmon, a two-time All American at Oklahoma who finished seventh in the Heisman voting in 1973. Selmon served as an assistant coach for the Sooners from 1976 to 1994.

The News-Star also previously confirmed applications by finalists Lee Fobbs, a running backs coach at Texas A&M; and Alabama A&M head coach Anthony Jones; as well as former Alabama State coach L.C. Cole, Toledo linebackers coach Dennis Winston and longtime Nebraska assistant Turner Gill.

No comments: