ESPN film will focus on Croom

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Sylvester Croom didn’t win a lot of games at Mississippi State, but his arrival remains a milestone moment for the SEC.
Croom, the first black man to be a head football coach in the SEC, will be the subject of an ESPN documentary this fall. It will be the fifth installment of the SEC “Storied” series, which has featured former Georgia tailback Herschel Walker, former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson, LSU track star Lolo Jones, and the SEC football championship game.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced the documentary Tuesday at SEC Media Days. He noted the three black head coaches currently in the league – Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin – and the long-term impact Croom’s hiring had on the SEC.
“It was a moment in time that I will always remember as one of the most significant things that has happened during my tenure and that could happen during my tenure,” Slive said. “SEC ‘Storied’ is a way of analyzing that and viewing it in the context of our history.”
The film is being directed by Johnson McKelvy and produced by Andrew Billman, who worked on the Jones documentary. The Croom film is expected to be released within the next two months or so, Billman said.
Croom, who played for Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama, was a longtime NFL assistant when MSU athletics director Larry Templeton hired him in December of 2003. Croom followed Jackie Sherrill, who won 75 games during his 13-year tenure.
“The one thing that kept coming out when we were doing the interviews … was I kept imagining him sitting in the home of a prospect with momma in that room,” Templeton said. “It just kept coming (to me), this guy can sell himself, and he can sell our university. It turned out that was exactly right.”
When he was hired, Croom deflected the talk of his being the league’s first black head coach. During his introductory press conference, he said “there ain’t but one color that matters here, and that color is maroon.”
Said Templeton, “He never wanted (race) mentioned. The one thing that he kept asking us about was, are we going to take care of the young men we sign after they complete their football eligibility?”
Croom had a record of 21-38 in five seasons at MSU. His best season – and only winning season – came in 2007, when the Bulldogs went 8-5 and beat Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.
Following a 4-8 mark the next year, including a 45-0 loss to rival Ole Miss, he was replaced by Dan Mullen. Croom returned to the NFL as an assistant and is currently the running backs coach in Jacksonville.
brad.locke@journalinc.com