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Comegy's future with JSU Tigers remains unclear
Jackson State assistant coaches and players rushed off the field last season after a comeback win at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“We won this one for Big Coach,” they yelled.
“Big Coach” - aka Rick Comegy - was stuck in a Little Rock hotel during last year’s 52-30 win at Pine Bluff, suspended by the conference for profane comments directed at game officials he made the week before.
Comegy is expected to be at this Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against Pine Bluff at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
But how long will the sixth-year coach be at Jackson State?
Comegy, paid $186,000 a year, has less than three months left on his contract. To be exact, he has 88 days remaining.
Jackson State officials have dodged questions on Comegy’s future recently.
JSU President Carolyn Meyers was unavailable this week for comment. Through a school spokesman, JSU athletic director Vivian Fuller declined an interview request.
When asked about Comegy’s future two months ago, Fuller said, “We have a football coach right now.”
On Monday, Comegy, 59, said he has not spoken with school officials about his future. The coach said he doesn’t think about it, though that time will come, he said.
“My mind right now is concentrating on giving these kids the best season they can get,” he said. “It doesn’t come across my mind. I guess, one day, it probably will, but right now my whole concentration is making this the best football program I can possibly make it.”
Comegy has compiled a 36-25 record and a 29-17 mark in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 5 1/2 seasons at JSU.
The Tigers had their best start in 10 years this season at 3-0 and are 4-1 heading into the game with Pine Bluff (3-2, 2-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference). Despite a loss, JSU is ranked as high as No. 3 in some black college polls and still has a slim shot to claim a black college national championship.
But Comegy’s future with Jackson State may not only hinge on the performance on the field, said former athletic director Bob Braddy. Braddy, who says he was forced to retire in February after serving as AD for five years, said this week he did not recommend a contract extension for Comegy after last season because of three letters: APR.
Jackson State is banned from the SWAC Championship Game this season because of its low Academic Progress Rate scores, a rolling four-year figure that calculates athletes’ academic performance.
“That was basically my concern,” Braddy said. “I didn’t think (an extension) was justified. It would have been like rewarding a child for bad behavior.”
JSU football could face a postseason ban next year if its multi-year APR score doesn’t exponentially increase.
More importantly, the athletic department could be expelled from NCAA Division I if it does not meet the condition of an NCAA waiver. JSU’s 2010-2011 single-year APR score must be 900. That figure should be available to Jackson State this month.
Asked about Comegy’s future in March, Meyers, the JSU president, said the program “has to show at least a 20-point improvement” in APR.
Quarterback Casey Therriault said players are “taking steps to improve our grades, our APR.
“There are a lot of things going on centered on grades,” he said. “I’ve noticed.”
Some fans have called for Comegy’s ouster on social media networks, but former coach W.C. Gorden doesn’t agree.
“Winning is the bottom line for keeping your job,” said Gorden, the winningest coach in JSU history. “If he wins this year, he should be given the opportunity to correct the academic failures.”
Therriault and other players say they don’t discuss Comegy’s future. Some, like receiver Rico Richardson, said he “doesn’t know nothing” about the coach’s contract.
Fellow SWAC coaches are standing up for Comegy. Southern University’s Stump Mitchell said two weeks ago that Comegy should receive an extension, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach Monte Coleman said Comegy is “a winning coach” and is “always a contender.”
Comegy led JSU to back-to-back SWAC Championship Games in 2007 and 2008. He won it all in ‘07 and was given a two-year contract extension after that season. Braddy said this week that Comegy could have avoided this situation by winning a SWAC Championship in any of the last three seasons.
According to a clause in the coach’s contract, obtained through a public records request, Comegy is given a one-year extension on his deal each time a SWAC championship is won.
The 2008 team lost in the title game. The 2009 squad went 3-8, and last year’s 8-3 team fell a game shy of advancing to the championship game.
Comegy’s team is ineligible to win a SWAC title this year.
Said Braddy about the football team: “They’re fighting for their lives.”
Written by Ross Dellenger, Clarion Ledger