What’s going on at Texas Southern, and is there a solution?

Photo courtesy Texas Southern Athletics

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As a sports journalist, I often hear accusations of dysfunction within the administration of some Non-FBS teams in Texas. Sometimes, there’s at least a modicum of truth to the rumors. Often, the smoke turns out to be an unhappy supporter or two. Rarely is the dysfunction within an administration put on full display like Texas Southern has done in its search for a head coach.

Let’s begin with a timeline of events in case you haven’t been glued to X/Twitter.

November 14 - Word leaks that some players have been informed McKinney would not return. TSU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics, Dr. Kevin Granger, denied the report.

November 20 - News is confirmed that Clarence McKinney’s contract will not be renewed. McKinney’s contract is set to expire on Dec. 15. This date will be mentioned again soon.

November 28 - The Houston Chronicle publishes a story on why former Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson would be the right fit for TSU. This story will come into play again later.

December 7 - Sources indicate TSU has narrowed its search to two candidates, former Nebraska coach Mickey Joseph and former Colorado defensive backs coach Brett Maxie. Notably, our sources had stated the search was already a mess.

December 13 - Sources confirmed Texas Southern was set to name Fred McNair head coach within the next two days. McNair spent the last eight seasons at SWAC rival Alcorn State.

December 15 - A virtual special meeting is called to “Request Approval to Appoint and Negotiate Employment Contract for Head Football Coach.” This was when the dysfunction began to show as the Board of Regents could not reach a quorum.

December 19 - Another virtual special meeting is called to seek approval to appoint and negotiate a contract with the head football coach. Again, no decision was reached. HBCU Legends reports that two members either failed to attend or disagreed with the selection because some preferred Andre Johnson to be head coach. 

December 19 - Alcorn State releases a statement mentioning an inability to reach an agreement on a new contract. The Braves quickly promoted defensive coordinator Cedric Thomas to head coach.

Where does Texas Southern go from here? They must address whether Andre Johnson will be the head coach. Deion Sanders made it work at Jackson State, but he did that with a lot of his own money. Many sources I spoke with have no interest in Johnson being head coach unless he donates large sums of his own money to the university.

The problem is that Johnson’s only experience in coaching is as a special advisor to former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien’s staff in 2019 and 2020. His lack of experience as a coach, much less a head coach, is a significant roadblock for many of TSU’s alums.

If Johnson isn’t the choice, who is? Mickey Joseph is off the board after agreeing to become the coach at Grambling. Brett Maxie is an alum of TSU, but would he be willing to step into the program under interim president Dr. Mary Evans Sias with signs of dissension already present?

TSU could return to McNair, but would he accept now? If he did accept, how much support would he have from the administration?

Meanwhile, during this recruiting cycle, the Tigers have missed an opportunity to improve its roster. Some may scoff at the notion this will hurt the program, but every minute matters in the age of the transfer portal. The inability to agree on a coach will have significant implications on the field next season.

TSU’s recent series of events is a significant reason why most schools have the athletic director, president, and board of regents agree on the selection before proceeding into public view.

Might I suggest communication is the key to solving the issues the university placed in full view of the public? Having everyone on the same page throughout the process is vital to a successful search. I’m not sure where the disconnect in communication lies, but I suggest Texas Southern corrects the issue before they damage their reputation further.

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