Coach Rob gets encore season at Grambling – Grambling University football coach Eddie Robinson gets extension

The curtain finally closed on a
week-long controversy surrounding
Eddie Robinson, Grambling
University’s legendary football coach.

Now that the seventy-seven-year old
Robinson has been granted his wish to
coach one more season, the new
questions become: “What will
Grambling do to make the most of
Robinson’s last hurrah?”; and “Who
will succeed him?”

Coach Rob, as he is often called,
has roamed the sidelines for the
G-Men for fifty-five seasons. In the
process, he became the winningest
coach in the history of college football
with 405 career victories.

Although no announcement has
been made regarding specific plans
about a tour, there are three
possibilities that may be considered
for approval by the school in the
coming weeks:

Look for a Robinson media blitz
in late July when the Southwestern
Athletic Conference (SWAC), the
league in which Grambling plays,
stages its annual preseason media tour.

During the season, Grambling
will play several road games in
locations where the school has an
alumni chapter. It is possible that the
alumni chapters could devise their
own programs to honor Robinson and
help generate funds for the school’s
athletic department.

Under Robinson, more than 200
grambling players have gone on to
professional careers. With so many
professional alumni, there should be
ample opportunity for the school to
secure corporate sponsorships for any
event associated with Robinson’s
farewell.

As to Robinson’s successor,
former Washington Redskins Super
Bowl MVP Doug Williams is the
name most frequently mentioned.
Earlier this month, Grambling’s
president, Dr. Raymond A. Hicks,
met with Robinson and suggested that
the coach step down and take a vice
president’s position. Robinson
wasn’t interested and asked that he be
allowed to coach one final season.
But not everyone wanted
Robinson to stick around for the
additional year. Critics pointed to his
recent losing record.

The program,
which is coming off back-to-back
losing seasons for the first time in
school history, has also been
scrutinized by the National Collegiate
Athletics Association (NCAA) for
alleged rules violations. Plus, there
was an incident where four Grambling
players were charged with raping a
fifteen-year old girl.

It took almost a week before
Hicks announced at a news conference
that Robinson will end his coaching
career at the end of next season.
During that time, Grambling took a big
public relations hit for its treatment of
the legendary coach, according to
James Bradford, Grambling’s director
of its national alumni association.

“With all the media attention,
things were blown out of context,”
says Bradford. “The way things came
out made it look like we were trying to
run him out. That’s not so. Nobody
dislikes him. He’s done a grand job.
But there comes a time when it’s time
to move ion]. We don’t want to see
him destroy what he has built up.”

Fourteen months ago, Robinson
was the toast of college football,
bagging his 400th career win against
Mississippi Valley State. Over the
last three seasons, however,
Robinson’s record is 8-17, including
four straight to arch-rival Southern
University in the Bayou Classic.

“Grambling started losing more
than it ever had and people got
concerned when [Robinson] never said
anything about retiring,” Bradford
explains. “They felt he just might try
to go on and on.”
The unexpected decline in
Grambling football coupled with
Robinson’s reluctance to talk
specifically about his retirement plans,
created a sharp division among
Grambling alumni, according to Collie
Nicholson, a Grambling alumnus, who
served as the school’s sport publicist
for thirty-one years.

“After a while, it became a sore
point,” Nicholson says of Robinson’s
silence on his retirement plans. “It didn’t
help that he was losing more than he ever
had. As a result, he didn’t have the level
of alumni support that he usually has.
And that created a lot of division [among
alumni].”

With Robinson getting one final
shot to go out a winner, the
assumption is that he has a decent
chance to pull it off. Nicholson says
such notions build false hopes.

“The blue-chippers have already
made their commitments, so coach
Robinson won’t sign any of those
guys,” Nicholson says. “We don’t want
anyone, including Eddie Robinson, to
think that somehow, someone is going to
wave a magic wand and he’ll
automatically have a winning season.”
Even with Robinson back for one
more year, recruiting still figures to be
hampered.

In Nicholson’s mind, that’s where
ex-NFL quarterback Doug Williams, a
Super Bowl MVP and former
Grambling star, enters the picture.
Williams is currently a scout with the
NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars but was
recently interviewed by Morehouse
for a coaching job.

“It would be a good move to bring
Doug in now, but put him in a
position other than football coach
during Eddie’s let year,” Nicholson
says. “I can still get a start on
recruiting and have a solid chance of
getting some of the top athletes
because of his high visibility and
because the recruits will know that
he’s going to be the coach. That puts
Grambling in position to get the
quality of athletes it has in the past,
and the school won’t lose an additional
year in recruiting like it would if the
school waits until later next year to
hire a new coach.”

COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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