After years of speculation, Ed Reed finally has a job as a head coach at an HBCU.
The 2022 NCAA early signing period happened without B-CU making any noise in the process. Jackson State, Florida A&M and Texas Southern made major headlines, welcoming in talented players from Power Five schools and other FCS programs. Additionally, several players who were at JSU who had initially decided to enter the transfer portal, decided to stay in place and build under new head coach T.C. Taylor.
Just when the excitement and noise from early signing period subsided, Bethune-Cookman University dropped what may be the most significant capture to end the year. Reed will take over for former coach Terry Sims who was let go following a 2-9 campaign. B-CU is coming off its second consecutive two-win season. With several issues, including the halt of the program for the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to the dismal 2021 season, a hurricane that forced the team off campus for about a month in 2022 contributed to the paltry performance of the team this season.
B-CU has a history of winning football
Ed Reed will come into a program that is steeped in a tradition of winning. The Wildcats earned several MEAC titles and HBCU national championships in 2010 and 2013 under Brian Jenkins. Sims would win a MEAC title in 2015, had a down year in 2016 and followed that with consecutive seven-win seasons.
Athletic Director Reggie Theus was charged with finding the right fit for B-CU and they are banking that one of the best football players of all time will be able to reinvigorate the program. With the success and spotlight that Deion Sanders brought to Jackson State, there is a tremendous upside to having as recognizable a coach as Reed at the helm. College football is complex and it will take three major factors for Reed to be successful, beyond X’s and O’s.
First, it would take buy-in from the total administration. Winning in football does not happen simply because you have a great coach. It takes resources, whether monetary or other. It will take an athletics administration dedicated to providing the necessary academic, compliance and medical support to support a team that at institutions that participate in it draws a disproportionate amount of resources because of the size and dynamics of a football team.
Not only would this be from the athletics administration, but everyone from the university president, university trustees and alumni. In college athletics, especially in HBCU athletics, you get what you pay for. If you look at those who have been successful in football in the Celebration Bowl era, those institutions with the support win out. None more prevalent than North Carolina A&T State. Their campus-wide and unified effort to make the program the benchmark HBCU team reaped benefits valued at tens of millions of dollars. It also resulted in domination and championships. If you want to unify the fanbase and alumni…win!
Some facilities will need to be upgraded
Second, upgrade to facilities. B-CU is not alone in this area. Many HBCUs need to improved facilities. Often coaches are asked to “just win,” but it takes facilities to recruit, train in and care for the physical, academic, medical, and mental well-being of student-athletes. For the last several years, Bethune-Cookman has practiced at Municipal Stadium, where they play home games. That is a more than adequate place to practice. B-CU has one of the best athletic training facilities in the country in the Handfield Center. The state-of-the-art facility hosts many of the critical resources for athletics.
With the Handfield Center in place, B-CU should find a place on campus to carve out a practice field. Directly behind Moore Gymnasium is a field where Dr. Donovan Wells and the Marching Wildcats mold their sound and shows. On-campus facilities instill pride and provide a selling point as municipal facilities don’t allow for the branding that in-house ones do. If you walk into the B-CU athletics areas, the branding rivals those of USC, Ohio State and Notre Dame. A big part of the rise of the university over the years has been its partnering of athletics into the marketing of the general university. No other HBCU has utilized the formula to elevate the school any better than B-CU has. An on-campus tract of land designated as the football field would do wonders in preparation, access, and pride of the players.
Third, alumni giving must increase to support better outcomes. According to some recent NCAA reports, B-CU sells nearly 2,000 season football tickets annually. That is a phenomenal number. Remember that B-CU hovers around the 3,700 enrollees figure. It has mastered the appearance of being a much bigger university than it is. It reminds one of the Notre Dame mystique. Notre Dame hovers around the 8,500 enrollment mark, but its brand is bigger than life. B-CU has effectively captured some of that same magic. From Cadillac commercials to Rose Bowl appearances to Super Bowl and NFL game appearances, the B-CU brand is much larger than the school. And it should be.
Ed Reed will need to outline to alumni his specific needs
Ed Reed will need to assess what he needs once he arrives on campus. He may need a blocking sled. He might need additional uniforms. He will definitely need a robust academics and compliance staff prepared to intake the high-profile athletes that will undoubtedly accompany his arrival.
B-CU alumni tolerated overall disappointing seasons during their nine-game winning streak started by Jenkins and continued by Sims over FAMU in the Florida Blue Florida Classic. That historic streak has ended with two blowouts at the hands of the Rattlers. The rivalry dictates how the off-season plays out. A loss in the Florida Classic means you face relatives at Thanksgiving that attended Florida A&M and you have to hear their nonstop chatter. The luxury of nine straight years of domination has dissipated and the Cats are looking to redeem themselves.
B-CU alumni, it’s going to take money. There is no way around it. To see the program really flourish the way it possibly can under Reed, the checkbooks need to be opened. There is a reason alumni and boosters are so important to Power Five schools. It’s because they make the program grow and sustain.
Reggie Theus has just hired a Ferrari of a coach, but it’s going to take B-CU alumni and fans chipping in to put some high-octane fuel into the engine to make it run.