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Savannah State fires head coach, names interim
After two 1-10 football seasons, Savannah State head coach Steve Davenport was fired Wednesday afternoon.
Davenport’s assistant coaches were also let go, except for cornerbacks coach Corey Barlow, who was named the interim head coach.
“I don’t really know (why) and I didn’t ask,” said Davenport about his abrupt dismissal. “Me and the boss (athletics director Sterling Steward) have been clashing for a while. Some day I’ll have a story to tell, just not now.”
Steward did not return several calls Wednesday.
In a press release, Steward said, “We wish coach Davenport and his staff success with all their future endeavors.”
Davenport took over for interim coach Julius Dixon, who posted a 1-10 mark in 2010. Dixon replaced Robby Wells.
Savannah State hasn’t had a head football coach for longer than three seasons in 21 years. Bill Davis was the last coach to stay with the Tigers more than three years from 1986-92.
Davenport, who played at Georgia Tech and had been an assistant at Alabama-Birmingham, hoped to change that trend.
“You feel for the kids,” said Davenport, who will be 46 on May 3. “We had a three-year plan and we felt like the kids were pulling it off. Unfortunately, grown folk get in the way. I’ll certainly miss (the players), that’s for sure.”
Wide receiver Simon Heyward, a rising senior, had a chance to see Davenport before he left.
“I walked into his office and said, ‘What’s going on?’ and he gave me a hug and told me to keep truckin’,” Heyward said. “He didn’t say anything else. He didn’t say why he was fired.
“To be honest with you, this spring was the first time I really thought we had something going. And now this. It’s not healthy. It’s terrible. It hurts right now. Everybody is shocked. Why now? Why did they wait until now? We don’t know anything. We deserve to know.”
Davenport ushered in SSU’s play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Tigers won their first conference game by defeating North Carolina Central in 2011, but have not won a league game since.
SSU was among the 10 worst teams in the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing offense, total offense, scoring offense, rushing defense and scoring defense last season.
The Tigers lost to Oklahoma State 84-0 and to Florida State 55-0 in matchups with FBS schools last season.
Six of SSU’s 10 losses were by 39 or more points.
The Tigers’ offseason brought more problems. Offensive coordinator Terance Mathis left and Davenport took over the task of calling plays.
During the weekend, Alex Wierzbicki and Darius Allison were arrested at the Orange Crush party on Tybee Island.
Wierzbicki, a tight end, was charged with obstruction, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Allison, a linebacker who sat out last season with an injury, was charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a drug-related object for use.
Davenport didn’t think the arrests were SSU’s reason for firing him and said, “that would be interesting to know.”
Davenport said he did not get a chance to address his players about the firing.
“If there’s a sad part to this, I didn’t get a chance to tell the kids how proud I am of them,” he said. “I always tell the kids, you work hard to build a resume. Now I have to pull it out and put it to good use.”
By Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News