ASU coach Collins deserves new contract

Published 1:02 am Sunday, November 22, 2009

In a few weeks, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame will hand out the Conerly Trophy to the top football player in the state of Mississippi in 2009.

It is a great award that allows players from every four-year school in Mississippi, not just the big ones, to compete for the state award.

Now for a minute, let’s pretend there is a similar award for coaches.

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Call it the Johnny Vaught Award (after all, he is the only coach to bring a national championship to Mississippi) and let all the coaches from the state compete like the players do for the Conerly Trophy.

Now, if I’m casting my vote for the winner of the Vaught Award, I’d pass right on by the big boys — Houston Nutt at Ole Miss, Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and Larry Fedora at Southern Miss.

No, I’d head down to the SWAC and give my vote to Alcorn State coach Earnest Collins.

Don’t be fooled by Alcorn’s 3-6 overall record. What Collins has done in one year at Lorman is nothing short of amazing.

I’m sure most of you know the story by now. It was about this time last year when Alcorn’s football program was affectively blown up.

Seven of the Braves’ nine assistant coaches were fired by then-athletic director Darren Hamilton in the days after the Capital City Classic without the knowledge of then-head coach Ernest Jones.

Collins, who was Alcorn’s defensive coordinator last season, was one of the assistants who was fired.

The assistants were re-hired weeks later but Jones was then fired himself after threatening a lawsuit.

With national signing day looming, Collins was named interim head coach, having to recruit athletes to a school that had no head coach, and no stability at the top.

Collins was finally named permanent head coach after signing day had come and gone but only received a one-year contract, making him a lame duck, hardly ideal circumstances for a coach trying to turn around a team coming off back-to-back two-win seasons.

Collins’ plight was made even harder by a ridiculous schedule that included just three home games in a 10-game season.

Before the season started, I thought that the Braves would not win a single game.

And after losing their first two games to Southern Miss and Central Michigan by a combined score of 100-0, I thought I would be proven right.

But once SWAC play started, Collins began to turn the team around.

Back-to-back wins over Mississippi Valley State and Alabama A&M raised some eyebrows and a season-ending upset over arch rival Jackson State showed the Braves are on their way back to prominence.

In fact, Alcorn fell just one victory shy of winning the SWAC East championship. Now that is a remarkable achievement for a first-time head coach faced with a litany of obstacles.

Now that the season is over, one more obstacle stands in Collins’ way. Signing a new contract.

Alcorn State interim athletic director Brenda Square has expressed support for Collins, but has not said whether he will be back next year as head coach.

He should be. If he’s not, it would be a travesty and I would question exactly how much commitment the Alcorn administration has to produce a winning football team.

After last year’s coaching debacle, Alcorn became the joke of the SWAC. In just one season, Collins has made the Braves respectable again.

It’s time he was rewarded with a long-term contract.

And the first ever fictitious Johnny Vaught Award.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at