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Eddie George and other ex-All-Pros making an impact at HBCUs

He is one of many high-profile ex-pro athletes who decided to leave their luxurious retirement lives and take up coaching positions at historically Black colleges and universities, at a time when social change seems possible.

Television networks already had agreements with the Southwestern Athletic Conference (MAC) and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Now they have new stories thanks to coaches who bring a name and brand to the sidelines.

At least 13 ex-pro athletes have been hired to coach football or men's basketball in HBCUs. Seven of them were hired in 2019. Deion Sanders, former NBA champion and All-Star Mo Williams, at Alabama State, is part of the star-studded group. Sean Gilbert, a 11-year NFL veteran at Livingstone College, is Bonzi Wells (the 11th overall NBA draft selection in 1998), was just hired by LeMoyne-Owen.

Charles McClelland, Commissioner of SWAC, stated that it is high-risk and high-reward. High-profile coaches face the biggest challenge when they try to coach students at historically Black colleges or universities. They have to accept that not all of the resources they are used to are available.

Many of the most prominent coaches made tens of million in their pro career and are now working in athletic departments that make a fraction of that amount.

George, who is paid $400,000 per year, believes it's a calling to coach at an HBCU. He did not have to move to Tennessee State to get the job. This is where he began his practice when the Houston Oilers moved from Texas to Tennessee. Nashville has also been his home for the past quarter century.

George stated, "You want that world to be better and to bring a light to the HBCUs world and the great storied programmes that have produced NFL talent as well as great talent into this world, period." It's all part of it. It's the young men who are at the core of this building that gives it its energy.

Anyone who pays attention is familiar with the sight of former professional athletes coaching at an institution of higher education (HBCU) is not a new thing.

Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams was a Grambling State coach in 1998. This was his first of two coaching stints. McClelland employed Cynthia Cooper, a former WNBA player and Naismith Hall of Famer in 2006 as AD at Prairie View and Texas Southern. A statue of Cynthia Cooper is on the Nike campus. She helped to bring gear to Prairie View that they couldn't otherwise get.

It's difficult to believe that the timing of this new group of coaches could have been better. George, Sanders, and other HBCU leaders have raised the bar for them to a level they've never seen before. McClelland, and other administrators like him, hope that all this attention will translate into new revenue streams as well as increased support.

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