Croom, 49, is in his fourth year as Packers running backs coach. He previously was offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions for four years, but has never been a head coach at any level. He played center for Alabama (‘72-'74) and also served as an assistant coach for the Tide from 1976 through 1986. Since then he's coached running backs for Tampa Bay, San Diego and Green Bay. A native of Tuscaloosa, Croom was Alabama's starting center on its 1973 national-title team and made the All-America team under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant in 1974.
"We went after the best football coach and we're confident we found that individual in Sylvester Croom," athletic director Larry Templeton said.
Croom has his work cut out. He replaces retiring coach Jackie Sherrill and inherits a program that has been in a free fall for three years. The Bulldogs are 8-27 since 2001 with just three SEC victories. They completed a 2-10 season last week, the school's worst since 1988.
Mississippi State is awaiting the results of an NCAA investigation into possible rules violations by the football program from 1998-2002. Templeton said he has discussed the NCAA issues with Croom.
There were only four black head football coaches among 117 Division I-A football schools this season prior to Croom's hiring – Karl Dorrell, UCLA; Fitz Hill, San Jose State; Tony Samuel, New Mexico State; and Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame. The SEC provided its members lists of potential minority candidat es to help promote a more inclusive hiring process.
Alabama was criticized by some, including civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, for not hiring Croom, who had more experience than Shula.