In historic hire, only color that mattered was red

Thursday, December 22, 2005

During the public portion of the news conference to introduce Tony Samuel as the new head coach of the Southeast Missouri State football team, the only color mentioned was red.

Dr. Kenneth Dobbins, the university president, gave Samuel some Southeast clothing items and then said the coach would look good in a red sports coat like the one Dobbins was wearing.

"It's not Nebraska red anymore," Dobbins said.

Samuel is a Nebraska alum and spent more than 10 years as an assistant coach for Tom Osborne.

Samuel becomes the first black head coach in any sport in Southeast history, a fact that didn't even come up until interviews after the news conference.

"Are we going there?" said Samuel, who said he had fielded some of the same questions when he was hired as the first black head coach for New Mexico State in 1997.

"I'm looking forward to the day when it's not news anymore," Samuel said. "That would mean we've made big progress."

Southeast athletic director Don Kaverman agrees.

He said the process the university followed to hire its coach included interaction with the Black Coaches Association.

"The BCA contacts every Division I-A and I-AA football program that's looking for a coach to express their expectations," Kaverman said. "They provided us with their criteria, and we responded to it. I think we had to respect their expectations.

"We always attempt to be inclusive. I think there's more of a spotlight on football and basketball."

The BCA issues a grade based on how each school works with its criteria and publicizes those marks.

"It was not our driving force but we were cognizant of it," Kaverman said.

He said he thought -- regardless which coach was hired -- Southeast would get high marks for its process.

"I think we surpassed their expectations," he said.

"We hired the best candidate for us and for the football program needs to be," Kaverman added.

As for the history that was made? "It's coincidental," Kaverman said.

Samuel knows its a results-driven business.

"The business is competitive," he said, "and people are just looking for the best available man."

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