BRISTOL, CONN---With the abrupt cancellation of the SIAC-CIAA Heritage Bowl, scheduled to be played in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, the premature off-season for Black College... BRISTOL, CONN---With the abrupt cancellation of the SIAC-CIAA Heritage Bowl, scheduled to be played in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, the premature off-season for Black College Football had already become somewhat eventful.
Since the end of the regular season in November to the final ticks of SWAC Championship in December, eight head football coaching positions within the four HBCU conferences have become available.
One of the stranger stories came from the SIAC where Tuskegee coach Rick Comegy, who was scheduled to replace Mo Forte at Norfolk State, decided to remain at the Division II school. Nearly one month after being introduced as the Spartans' head coach, Comegy announced that he will stay at TU as football coach and athletic director.
Norfolk State officials said they hadn't heard from Comegy since New Year's Eve. On January 6th, Comegy was to be introduced to NSU's faculty and then was scheduled to meet with President Marie V. McDemmond, but he failed to appear.
Questions about Comegy's credibility began to surface Dec. 16, five days after the news conference announcing his hiring at NSU, when the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., reported he was a candidate for the head coaching position at Jackson State. Comegy vigorously denied those reports, even after Jackson State AD Jack Culberson said he had spoken directly with Comegy and said Comegy had faxed him a copy of a letter of agreement he signed with Norfolk State.
Asked if the university will take legal action against Comegy or Tuskegee, McDemmond said: ``We'll be speaking to our lawyers about that.''
Other veteran coaches who resigned or were relieved of their duties were Bill Hayes at North Carolina A&T, John Wright of Elizabeth City State, Rudy Abrams at N.C. Central, and Prairie View A&M's Larry Dorsey.
Hayes came to N.C. A&T in 1988 after 11 years as the head coach at Winston-Salem State. In 15 years, Hayes went 106-64 becoming the Aggies all-time winningest coach. He won three MEAC titles ('91-92, '99) and two NCAA I-AA playoff appearances.
After going 2-9 his first season, Hayes guided the Aggies to a share of the MEAC title with a 9-2 record in 1991, including a trip to the first Heritage Bowl. Hayes was named the MEAC and SBN Coach of the Year.
Hayes’ most successful season came in 1999, when he led the Aggies to a school-best 11-2 record. He was again named MEAC and SBN Coach of the Year after the Aggies finished a perfect 8-0 in the league. He also led N.C. A&T to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs and a 1st Round victory over top-seeded Tennessee State.
Ironically, the Aggies (4-8, 2-6 MEAC) opened the 2002 season with an upset loss to N.C. Central. The win, which snapped the Eagles' 12-game losing streak to A&T, was part of what was an roller-coaster season for Rudy Abrams.
Despite the huge win, NCCU would lose four of their next six games and finished the 2002 campaign with a 4-6l record. It was only Abrams' second losing season in nine years as a college head coach. His record now stands at 53-36-1, including an 18-21 record in four seasons at NCCU.
One of the more interesting moves may have come at Jackson State where despite three straight winning seasons (all 7-4 finishes), head coach Robert Hughes was let go by the Tigers.
Hughes, who served as the Tigers head coach for four years, compiled a 30-15 career record. In 1999, he guided the team to a 9-3 overall record and a berth in the inaugural SWAC Championship Game where they lost to Southern, 31-30.
On the day that it was announced Hughes' contract wouldn't be renewed, JSU President Ronald Mason Jr. said one of the reasons was it was time to "bring in new blood."
Hughes was replaced by James Bell. The 44-year-old Bell has nearly 20 years of colle