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Croom Accepts Head Coaching Position At Mississippi State


Sylvester Croom became the first black head football coach in the Southeastern Conference, accepting an offer Monday to take over troubled Mississippi State.

"We went after the best football coach and we're confident we found that individual in Sylvester Croom," athletic director Larry Templeton said.

Croom informed Templeton that he would take the job less than 24 hours after Templeton said he had offered it. A news conference will be held Tuesday to introduce him.

Croom, 49, has never been a head coach, but has been an NFL assistant with five teams since 1987 and worked for Bear Bryant and Ray Perkins at Alabama from 1977-86.

The SEC's hiring history came under increased scrutiny earlier this year when Croom was passed over for the top job at his alma mater, Alabama, in favor of Mike Shula, another former Crimson Tide player, who is white.

Every other BCS conference has had at least one black head coach, but a lack of diversity among major college football head coaches is not exclusive to the SEC.

There were only four black head football coaches among 117 Division I-A football schools this season.

The SEC provided its members lists of potential minority candidates to help promote a more inclusive hiring process.

Alabama was criticized by some, including civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, for not hiring Croom, who had more experience than Shula.

Messages left at Croom's home and office were not immediately returned.

Templeton said Sunday that Croom, who has been coaching running backs at Green Bay since 2001, has been cleared by the Packers to assume his new position immediately.

He replaces retiring coach Jackie Sherrill and inherits a program that has been in a free fall for three years.

The Bulldogs are 8-27 since 2001 with just three SEC victories. They completed a 2-10 season last week, the school's worst since 1988.

Mississippi State is awaiting the results of an NCAA investigation into possible rules violations by the football program from 1998-2002. Templeton said he has discussed the NCAA issues with Croom.

Croom, who played offensive line at Alabama in the early '70s, still has family in his native Tuscaloosa and a daughter and granddaughter living in Mobile, Ala.

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