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Savannah State looks for a place to begin
One of the last questions for the last of four Savannah State football coaching candidates might have been as thought provoking as the job at hand.
“What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” asked a school supporter to Mickey Joseph on Friday at the Jordan Auditorium on campus.
There are a million questions swirling around SSU football but none bigger than the first that comes to mind — where do you start to build a program?
The Tigers have won more than two games in a season only once since 1999.
They finished 2012 with their third straight 1-10 season and ranked among the 10 worst teams in the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing offense, total offense, scoring offense, rushing defense and scoring defense.
Seven weeks ago, SSU athletic director Sterling Steward Jr. fired head coach Steve Davenport, and the search for a 12th coach since 1992 began.
A search committee at the school produced four candidates — John Hendrick, Earnest Wilson III, E.J. Junior and Joseph.
One will be offered the head coaching job, possibly by Wednesday, and an announcement of the new coach will take place Friday or next Monday, Steward said.
Tiger supporters had a chance to hear a presentation before asking questions of each candidate in a public forum, making Friday’s get together seem like a Tony Robbins motivational speech followed by a town hall meeting.
“This is my first time in a forum like this,” Joseph said. “I think it’s a good process. People want to be involved. You’re allowing them to ask their questions, and they’re going to hear your answers.
“Most coaches in this profession know what to do. But it doesn’t always go A, B, C, D. It’s a process, how are you going to put it together? And once you put it together, what do you have to tweak?”
Finding a way
While putting coaching candidates in a public forum is unique to many schools, Savannah State had held similar events when looking to hire administrators.
About 200 attended Friday’s forum, drawing members of the community, the school’s coaches and football players and parents.
“It gives the (school) president and the AD an opportunity to see strengths and/or weaknesses (of the coaching candidates),” Steward said. “When you’re asked questions, you have to be quick on your feet. You have to be able to respond.
“I have a saying, leopards don’t change their spots. If you’re going to break under pressure (at a forum), you’re going to break under pressure on the football field.”
Steward said he wanted a public forum for the coaching candidates because “I wanted to do to provide the opportunity for us as a community to have an open, transparent process.”
It’s a nice change because the reasons for the firing of Davenport couldn’t have been more oblique.
Maybe this is the starting point for Savannah State athletics. It’s been a good spring overall — the baseball team won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and advanced to an NCAA regional and several track and field athletes are headed to the NCAA Championships later this week.
The men’s basketball team has been to national postseason play the last two seasons.
But the lagging football program has been grabbing most of the attention. Steward understands.
“We’re in the South, and (football) has to be successful,” he said.
So what do you do when you don’t know what to do?
“A lot of times you pray,” Joseph said after the forum.
Steward won’t be far behind.
“I hope and pray everyone involved with Savannah State will be on board and supportive of this next coach,” he said. “We need that.”
By Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News