SWAC features new look after several coaching changes
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Grambling State’s Broderick Fobbs welcomes his new coaching peers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference — and any new ideas they bring with them.
Half the league’s 10 programs have new leaders going into this season, though most of them have been around for a while as assistants.
“There are going to be guys that bring different defenses, there are going to be guys who bring different offenses and do things differently in another way that maybe you haven’t thought about,” said Fobbs, whose Tigers have won the past two SWAC titles and 26 overall. “So I’m always intrigued by that because it gives you an opportunity to learn as well.
“I look forward to it. Change always makes you better when you accept it the right way.”
SWAC schools, like many others around the country, are banking on it.
Besides the five new head coaches, Grambling will have a new quarterback with the departure of two-time league offensive player of the year DeVante Kincaid.
Four-time defending SWAC East champion Alcorn State has a revamped coaching staff, including the hiring of former West Virginia star Pat White as quarterbacks coach.
The new head coaches range from Mississippi Valley State’s 33-year-old Vincent Dancy to Alabama State’s Donald Hill-Eley, who has 12 years experience as a head coach. Former Grambling offensive coordinator Eric Dooley has taken over at Prairie View A&M and ex-Alcorn State assistant Cedric Thomas is the new head man at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where he played.
Former Hampton coach Connell Maynor is the only one of the five to come in from outside the league. He has taken over at Alabama A&M.
“We got a lot a lot of coaches with lot of wins from wherever they’ve gone,” Alabama State’s Eley said. “When they were coordinators they had great segments, whether it was offense or defense. And if they were head coaches, they had great success. I think that kind of experience will help the conference.”
Dooley seems to be taking over the program on the most solid footing at Prairie View, with the other four teams coming off losing seasons.
“I’ve had an opportunity to play against this team so I knew what type of players they had,” Dooley said. “But then I also knew my mind-set coming in. I thought it was a great program, a program right where it needs to be. We’re not in a rebuilding stage. We want to compete this year.”
Here’s a look at the SWAC’s coaching changes, with last year’s records and the newcomers’ track records:
ALABAMA A&M (4-7)
Notable: Hasn’t had a winning season since 2012.
Old: James Spady, fired after going 15-30 in four seasons
New: Connell Maynor, who was 20-25 in four seasons at Hampton but led Division II Winston-Salem State on an impressive run before that. The former Arena Football League offensive coordinator led Winston-Salem to the Division II championship game in 2012 and went 45-6 with three consecutive Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles. Maynor’s resume also includes stints as a body double in the movies “Any Given Sunday” and “Remember the Titans.”
ALABAM STATE (5-6)
Notable: Made a midseason coaching change.
Old: Brian Jenkins was fired after an 0-5 start, going 10-17 in two-plus seasons.
New: Donald Hill-Eley, was promoted after going 5-1 as interim head coach. Had 12-year run at Morgan State end in 2013 after winning 59 games and being named the 2002 MEAC coach of the year. He’s hoping to complete his PhD in December.
ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF (2-9)
Notable: Allowed 33.2 points per game last season.
Old: Monte Coleman, fired after going 40-70 in 10 seasons.
New: Cedric Thomas, a former Pine Bluff player. Was defensive backs coach for Alcorn State, which won the last four SWAC East titles.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE (2-9)
Notable: Lost its last four games last season.
Old: Rick Comegy’s contract wasn’t renewed after he went 6-38 in four seasons.
New: Vincent Dancy, a 33-year-old who had been the team’s defensive coordinator since 2015. The former Jackson State assistant and player had been named interim head coach last November.
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M (6-5)
Notable: Turned to the SWAC’s most successful program for a new coach.
Old: Will Simmons left for Florida A&M after going 21-11 in three seasons.
New: Eric Dooley spent the last four seasons as Grambling State’s offensive coordinator. The former Grambling wide receiver has also worked at Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southern.