Robinson: Croom earned job

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

LORMAN &045; Mississippi State’s hiring of Sylvester Croom for its head football coach vacancy has reaped praises from corners across the country.

&uot;It’s a great opportunity for Mississippi State when you can actually have someone on your staff that’s been cultivated in different arenas &045; specifically professionally,&uot; Alcorn golf coach D’Wayne Robinson said of Croom, who will leave his running backs coach position with the Green Bay Packers to take over a Mississippi State team that has won one SEC game the past two years.

State introduced Croom Tuesday in a press conference as the first minority football coach in the Southeastern Conference, a step long overdue for a league that is considered to be one of the top football conferences every year.

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Despite similar resumes, Croom &045; who played under legendary coach Paul &uot;Bear&uot; Bryant at Alabama &045; was passed over the Crimson Tide opening for Mike Shula during the summer in the wake of the Mike Price scandal.

Robinson, who participates in the NCAA’s Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Males, which seeks to increase the number of qualified minority candidates for upper level positions at Division-I institutions, believes Croom was hired in Starkville not because of his race, but his merits.

&uot;I think (Croom’s) wealth of knowledge can only benefit the program. I feel he’ll be an awesome pioneer to let other (universities) know it’s OK to bring a minority on board.&uot;

Robinson, who enters is third year as the head of the Braves’ golf program in the spring, has resurrected a program that was routinely at the bottom of the Southwestern Athletic Conference ladder in the 15 years prior to his arrival.

Since he came on the scene, both Alcorn’s men’s and women’s golf teams are consistently in the top three of the SWAC, and in April then-freshman

Glyn Bateman won the overall individual title at the SWAC Championships at Windcrest Golf Course in Magnolia, Texas.

Robinson continues to strengthen the program in recruiting a quality crop of golfers during the offseason &045; both men and women &045; including Los Angeles products Greg Banks and Ada Lamela.

&uot;We’re on pace this year to make a run at the team title, as well,&uot; he said.

However, this will be Robinson’s last year at Alcorn as the golf coach due to his accepting a position with the Florida State football program’s academic support.

He points to his education from the NCAA’s Leadership program for helping him network to get said opportunity.

&uot;It’s an opportunity for me to learn from a major program, and not just in football, but athletically and academically one with high standards,&uot; Robinson said of Florida State. &uot;Hopefully, it will open doors for me in reaching my long term goal of becoming a Division-I athletic director.&uot;

Current Alcorn athletic director Robert Raines was originally handpicked for the NCAA initiative that developed in late June 2001 to enhance job-related competencies in selected administration areas.

However, Raines, who was an assistant AD at the time of his selection, was unable to complete the course and recommended Robinson enter the tutorial.

&uot;It has acted as a tool or vehicle for me to learn about a lot of different areas of leadership and administration in athletics,&uot; he said. &uot;It has given me the chance to network with other individuals in the athletic arena.&uot;

Five times throughout the yearlong process, Robinson makes weekend trips up to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis for sessions.

High-profile minority athletic administrators, such as former Michigan State athletic director Merritt Norvell Jr., have mentored him.

&uot;They really take you through a thorough program to give you knowledge through case study and interaction,&uot; Robinson said. &uot;If an individual can get involved, it’s a great program to open doors for so many opportunities.&uot;

Still, Robinson believes that credentials come before color. He said more and more college football programs are not basing their decision to hire coaches on whether or not they may be a minority, but on their records.

Notre Dame did not hire Tyrone Willingham two years ago because it was the chic thing to do; it chose the polished coach because he was a winner with his kids both on the field and in the classroom with a high graduation rate while at Stanford.

&uot;It just took some time to shift down this way. With the success of other minority coaches, I no longer think it’s a taboo subject,&uot; Robinson said. &uot;There are those out there that make race an issue, but they’re not the ones making the decision. I think we’re way beyond that.&uot;

Robinson finds interesting the notion that in the past minority applicants for D-I jobs weren’t good enough, despite resumes that said otherwise.

Again, he finds solace in knowing Mississippi State athletic director Larry Templeton was not strong-armed into choosing Croom but wanted the 49-year-old coach for developing talent at each of his stops.

&uot;It maybe surprising to those who didn’t expect it to happen at a Mississippi school, but if (Croom) has got the credentials then that’s what it’s about,&uot; Robinson said. &uot;When you see Coach Croom’s background, you know that’s the best guys for the job.&uot;