One-on-One With Coach Croom

Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom talks about winning seven games this year, being a role model and his feeling about the affect this season should have on MSU recruiting in the future.

Your team has won seven games, you are going to a bowl game, you won the SEC Coach of the Year award. What do you do for an encore?
"Encore, we haven't even started yet! If we won seven games at Oklahoma or somewhere like that, they would be ready to run me out of town. Whereas, people think you have accomplished something at Mississippi State if you do that. In the future that is going to change because we came here to be a championship program. We are very excited about being in a bowl game this year, but we are nowhere near what we came to do. Until we win the conference championship, the job is not done."

You are a role model for your players. You are a role model for your family. And you are also a role model for a lot of young African-American coaches. You were just named the SEC Coach of the Year award by every publication, by the media and by the coaches. If you were a young black coach looking at Sylvester Croom, how would that affect you?
"I'll tell you what it does for young minority coaches, it shows that it's possible now. It can be done because it has already been done. It's not just a dream; it can happen. Now, they've got a goal that they can legitimately work toward.

"When I was a young coach, the idea of being the coach of the year never crossed my mind - never even crossed my mind. (And) the idea of being a head coach in this conference never crossed my mind except when (former Alabama) Coach (Bear) Bryant was alive I thought that Coach would help me get one. But when he passed, and I didn't get a chance to get the job at my home school I didn't think anybody else would give me a chance. I really didn't. For Mississippi State to give me this chance, I am definitely grateful for that.

"What I hope it also does is motivate anybody - particularly young back teenagers and young black men - who thinks the impossible can't be done. Right now, our society is telling them what they can't do. Even in the black communities, they are being told what they can't do; that dreams are impossible. By what has happened for me and our program, I hope that they see that the dreams that appear to be impossible are possible."

Recruiting-wise, how much does all that has happened this year help?
"Even as we started into the season, there were some key prospects who we had a difficult time getting in contact with. Now they have started looking at us differently. Where it has really helped is out-of-state. I've recently been in Houston, Atlanta and Florida. We are looked at differently by out-of-state guys."

Will that change your recruiting strategy?
"Not really. I shouldn't say that because it will. I think we will be able to go into some homes out-of-state that we haven't been able to. It will definitely open some doors. But I don't think it will change our strategy in Mississippi and our four-hour radius. We will continue doing that. Our basic recruiting will still be in a four-hour radius.

"One of the things that we have to consistently do is consistently improve our team speed. And in order to do that year in, year out we are going to have to go out-of-state to some degree. Florida, Atlanta, Houston would be some key areas that we can go in to improve our overall team speed."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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