The Tale Of Sylvester Croom Who Made History

The Tale Of Sylvester Croom Who Became The First Black Head Coach In SEC Football History

Sylvester Croom Makes History As SEC’s First Black Head Football Coach

Sylvester Croom was named the first Black head football coach in the history of the prestigious Southeastern Conference (SEC) when he accepted the top job at Mississippi State University in 2003.

This historic appointment broke new ground in a conference that had long resisted integration in its coaching ranks.

At the time, Croom, a 49-year-old veteran assistant coach in the NFL, was described as a “natural fit” for the role by Mississippi State Athletic Director Larry Templeton. Templeton praised Croom’s extensive coaching experience, as well as his exceptional integrity, loyalty, and dedication as a person.

A Legendary Playing Career At Alabama

Croom’s path to this groundbreaking moment was paved by his own storied playing career at the University of Alabama, where he was an All-American center and team captain under the legendary Coach Bear Bryant in the early 1970s.

During his time as a player, the Crimson Tide teams he was a part of finished in the top 10 nationally every year and won three SEC championships.

As Croom himself acknowledged, the key to his success as a player was the influence of Coach Bryant, who had the ability to motivate his players to avoid losing at all costs. This formative experience would later shape Croom’s own coaching philosophy and approach.

Paying His Dues In The NFL

After his playing days, Croom spent over a decade as an assistant coach at Alabama before embarking on a 17-year career in the NFL, serving as an assistant with several teams, including the Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and San Diego Chargers.

This extensive pro coaching experience made him a highly sought-after candidate when the Mississippi State job opened up.

Croom’s hiring was seen as a significant step forward not just for Mississippi State, but for the SEC as a whole. At the time, the conference was the only one in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) that had never had a Black head football coach.

Inheriting A Troubled Program

However, Croom was taking over a Mississippi State program that was in disarray, both on and off the field. The Bulldogs had just completed a disastrous 2-10 season, their worst since 1988, and were facing potential NCAA sanctions due to an ongoing investigation into potential rules violations.

Despite the daunting challenges, Templeton expressed confidence that Croom was the right man to turn the program around, stating that he “met every criteria we laid forth” and that the university was “excited to welcome him to the Mississippi State family.”

Croom’s historic appointment as the SEC’s first Black head football coach was a watershed moment, not just for Mississippi State, but for the entire conference and the sport of college football. His journey to this point, from his storied playing days at Alabama to his extensive NFL coaching experience, made him uniquely qualified to take on this groundbreaking role.

Paving The Way For Others

While Croom’s tenure as Mississippi State’s head coach was not without its struggles, his mere presence at the helm of an SEC program served as an important symbol of progress and a testament to the growing diversification of college football leadership.