MEAC

The Rise of Jerry Mack illustrates difficulty of keeping HBCU coaching talent

North Carolina Central saw something in young Jerry Mack that paid off. The other side to the coin is that keeping a coach like him is nearly impossible for HBCUs.

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Mack has now reached the Power Five level as he’s been named running backs coach for the University of Tennessee.

Mack was officially announced as a position coach for the SEC school on Monday. Reports had surfaced late last week that he would leave his position as offensive coordinator at Rice to join Josh Heupel’s newly assembled staff in Knoxville. 

The Memphis native had Rice’s offense rated fifth in Conference USA in the abbreviated 2020 season, its highest ranking since 2015. He’s also been an assistant at South Alabama and Memphis, as well as a stint at Jackson State. 

Jerry Mack makes most of NCCU opportunity

Mack was just 33 years old when NCCU hired him to take over its fledgling Division I program in 2013. All he did was lead NCCU to a 31-15 record in four seasons, winning at least a share of the MEAC title in each of his first three seasons (though two of those would later be vacated due to APR violations). The highlight of his stint in Durham was the 2016 season when NCCU won the MEAC outright, earning a bid to the Celebration Bowl. NCCU would lose in a heart-breaker to Grambling and finish 9-3, but it was clear that Mack had already left his legacy on the school.

His final season in Durham was solid, but didn’t culminate in a championship. But being young and already having worked in the FBS in his background, Mack had options. And following the 2017 season, he made the move to Rice, giving up a coveted position as a head coach to be an assistant.

“I think the program is at a great place,” Mack said at the time. “It’s set up for success and I think this was a great time to leave. I think it’s in a better situation than when we found it. That was my job and I hope I pleased people by doing what they hired me to do and I see nothing but success from here for that program.”

NCCU has struggled since Mack’s departure, finishing 5-6 and 4-8 in the two seasons it has played since he left after the 2017 season. The program was placed on probation after self-reporting APR violations that included multiple sports due to clerical error, and spent a year with an interim coach before hiring alumnus Trei Oliver to take over prior to the 2019 season. NCCU will sit out the 2021 spring season and look to compete again.

Jerry Mack and NCCU went 3-1 against North Carolina A&T in four seasons.
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The Rise of Jerry Mack illustrates difficulty of keeping HBCU coaching talent



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