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COLUMN: Positively the type of news Southeast needs

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Southeast Missouri State football program created the type of buzz universities crave.

Few outside the Redhawks' locker room foresaw the turnaround, which only added to the intrigue.

The story spread as the wins mounted. Even USA Today got in on the action with a 10-paragraph story about the about-face that ran in early November.

The wave of positive national attention continued Thursday when Redhawks coach Tony Samuel was named the winner of the Eddie Robinson Award, presented to the national coach of the year.

"It is very satisfying. We've got players winning all kinds of awards, and this one culminates it, which means that the program is being recognized," Samuel said. "My name is on it, but it's the program that's getting the recognition, and it's national recognition."

These are the kind of stories university presidents and athletic directions yearn to see make headlines. These are the kind of stories that make recruits take a second and third look at the Redhawks program. These are the kind of stories that make casual fans don a Redhawks sweat shirt with pride.

And one of the best parts of all this positive attention is that it further distances Southeast from the stench created by NCAA investigations.

Southeast remains on NCAA probation for its latest brushes with rules violations. That won't end until June 17, 2013.

But the football team's success created a new image for those mostly unfamiliar with Southeast athletics.

Southeast athletics no longer are tied to phrases like lack of institutional control or vacation of wins. No, Samuel's national award Thursday is the type of news everyone associated with a university's athletics program hopes the teams generate.

When the NCAA announced its punishment for Southeast in June of 2008, banners needed to come down from the rafters. Even the team photo of 2005-06 team celebrating its OVC title is gone from the hallway near the team's locker room at the Show Me Center.

The recent announcements about Southeast athletics have created a new problem involving hardware.

"We've got a trophy case out there in front," Samuel said about where he plans to put his award, which is a bust of the legendary Eddie Robinson. "It's kind of filled up pretty good in one year. I think we have to buff it up a little bit. It's a little scuffed up, but we're going to have to either dress up the trophy case or either there's a lot of awfully talented people down in the Cape Girardeau area. Maybe someone will build something for us. But I got to think it's nice to have those kind of things. Those are the kind of things, those accomplishments are the kind of things they can't take away from you."

These are the kind of dilemmas no one minds -- where will a new trophy case fit and who is going to build it.

Kevin Winters Morriss is sports editor of the Southeast Missourian. You can reach him at: kmorriss@semissourian.com.

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