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Jackson State's Comegy Gets Bonus And Contract Extension, But Cuts Aid for 14; 6 Won't be Back
The numbers game plays out every year within the Jackson State football program. And few like the consequences.
Coach Rick Comegy said he revoked the scholarships of six players who will not return to the program this fall. Eight other players saw their scholarship money reduced or taken away, but Comegy expects them to return for the 2008 season.
“I think that’s the toughest time of year for any coach, when you have to make some decisions about the direction you’re going to go with your athletes,” Comegy said. “If any coach takes pleasure in it, I truly would be shocked.”
The NCAA allows for 63 football scholarships to be spread amongst 85 players at the Division I-AA level. Jackson State listed 68 players on the spring roster and signed 26 in February. Also, a handful of players have transferred in since the winter signing period, including former Tennessee defensive backs Ricardo Kemp and Antonio Wardlow.
So, the numbers have to be tweaked and Comegy has never been shy about telling the team that cuts will be made if players don’t perform to his standards.
“I’m hoping after this we can retain everyone that’s on that board then bring in another class,” said Comegy, who will be beginning his third season at JSU in August. “We’ve come of age now that we can retain the guys that we want. It takes a while when you first get here to settle in on the kind of guys you want on your team.
“There’s always going to be one or two recruiting mistakes, but we won’t have a wholesale of guys we lose.”
Player turnover has been high since Comegy was hired before the 2006 season as the coaching staff attempted to rebuild a program that had endured three consecutive losing seasons. The effort resulted in a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship last year, the first since 1996, but center Lorenzo Breland was the only four-year letterman on the roster.
Regardless of why and how, players aren’t thrilled about losing scholarship money.
Antonio Evans never quite found a home within the program - redshirting a year, switching from defensive back to wide receiver and only seeing the field as a special teams player in 2007. He learned that his scholarship will not be renewed during an exit interview after spring practices and plans to play for Division III Mississippi College this fall.
“I understand what they’re trying to do, it’s just how they’re doing it,” Evans said. “A lot of these players, it’s changing their lives.”
Quarterback Terrance Barnes was the highest-profile cut after spring practices ended. Barnes, who transferred from Hinds Community College in January, ran the second unit for most of the spring while injuries kept Tray Rutland and Joe Hawkins on the sidelines. But his JSU career was short-lived. Now Barnes said he hopes to play at Alcorn State in 2008.
“I don’t really think I did (get a fair opportunity),” Barnes said. “Four weeks and the spring game, you don’t really have a chance to show off like you want to.
“I think they had who they wanted with the signing class coming in. I was the first to sign then along came everyone else. You just move forward.”
Barnes and quarterback A.J. McKenna (Lackawanna College) transferred in the winter to join Rutland and Hawkins under center. Highly touted signee Dominick Britt from Ohio and Dedrick McDonald of Morton High School are two more quarterbacks who will be on campus this fall.
Comegy said all players are leaving in good academic standing, so the team will not take a hit in terms of the Academic Progress Rate (APR) - the NCAA’s measurement of academic progress and retention. He also said the process is part of renewing a championship quality program.
“I’m just glad we didn’t have the turnover we had in the past,” Comegy said. “Even some of the guys we gave half scholarships to are coming back.
“I think we’re doing it the right way. We’re retaining the majority of our kids and helping those that do leave find a place that’s best for them where they can get scholarships and move on.”
Football coach Rick Comegy signed a contract extension through 2011 after winning the 2008 SWAC championship. The deal is worth $186,000 annually, including bonuses based on ticket sales, academic achievements, Coach of the Year honors and winning the Black College National Championship.
The third-year coach will receive an extra year and $15,000 for winning additional SWAC championships.
JSU’s Comegy cuts aid for 14; 6 won’t be back
By Kareem Copeland, The Clarion-Ledger