Ed Reed is the latest NFL Hall of Famer turned college head football coach. About a month after Deion Sanders left Jackson State and a year after Tennessee State hired Eddie George, Bethune-Cookman University hired the former Miami Hurricane and Baltimore Raven safety to become its 16th head coach. Will we see more prominent ex-athletes coaching HBCUs?
One advantage to hiring a former player is money. Ed Reed, like Deion Sanders, Eddie George, and even Maurice "Mo" Williams (head basketball coach at Jackson State), doesn't need the money.
Hiring Ex-Players is not new to HBCUs.
Several SWAC and MEAC schools have hired former players through the years. Delaware State's last two coaches have professional football experience. Rod Milstead played in the NFL, and Lee Hull played in Canada. Morgan State hired Tyrone Wheatley in 2019. Schools have not just hired former football players either.
Mississippi Valley State hired Lindsey Hunter as its basketball coach, and Fisk University did the same with Kenny Anderson. Perhaps one of the biggest names to coach HBCU basketball was former Houston Comet, the legendary Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. Although hiring former professionals is nothing new, Cookman hiring Reed, JSU hiring Sanders, and TSU hiring George is different.
Before getting hired, neither of those three coaches had extensive collegiate or professional coaching experience. Sanders did have high school experience, and Reed coached in Buffalo for a year. Eddie George was a prominent donor to Tennessee State, and it was hoped George would help raise more funds for the football program as its head coach. Sanders wanted to be a head coach, and Jackson State AD Ashley Robinson wanted to make a splash hire.
Bethune-Cookman athletic director Reggie Theus -- a bit of a splashy hire himself -- hiring Reed to run the football program makes a lot of sense. The former All-American safety is a legend in Florida, despite being a Louisiana native. Reed won a national title at Miami and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Reed's always found a way to stay relevant in the state; he lives in Florida and served as chief of staff for the Hurricanes' program until Theus hired him.
Will it work?
No one knows the answer to that question. Coach Prime was 27-6 during his time at Jackson State. Eddie George is 9-13 in two seasons at Tennessee State. Tyrone Wheatley was 5-18 at Morgan State. Both George and Wheatly took on major rebuilds with lesser resources than Prime.
If Reed is to succeed, he'll have to put together a good staff, and the university has to make a legitimate investment in the football program. Reed's name is good in, Florida, and he should be able to get good FCS-level players in such a talent-rich state. Expect more HBCUs to follow suit if Reed has some success.