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Fame vs. Familiarity - The Case Study of Ed Reed and Mississippi Valley’s recent hire Kendrick Wade

We are about to embark on a remarkable case study over the next two or three years. Is it better to hire men that worked their way through the ranks and have previous ties to your school, or is it better to hire recently retired NFL Hall of Famers with little to no coaching experience? Today Mississippi Valley State University (MVST) announced the hiring of MVST alum Kendrick Wade. While some individuals thought that the job would go to NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis or famous alum Jerry Rice, the job was offered to Kendrick Wade. Wade will now serve as the 18th head football coach in school history. According to sources, Wade has made a name for himself in the collegiate ranks as a great wide receiver coach, a motivator, and a fantastic recruiter. These skills will serve him well in his quest to, as he said, “elevate” the program. Mississippi Valley's Athletic Director Hakim McClellan noted that the Delta Devils were looking for a man with a vision who could draw people into the program. McClellan also mentioned in his statement how important it was that Wade “worked his way up through the ranks”. Wade has been actively involved in coaching since 2019, serving as a wide receiver coach for Delta State University and Fort Valley State. At Fort Valley State, he also served as the passing game coordinator. Wade is also a two-time graduate of Mississippi Valley State, receiving both his baccalaureate and master's degrees from the school. As a player at Fort Valley, Wade was special, earning top honors as the Most Outstanding Wide Receiver in 2004 and being named to the MVST All-Decade team in 2018. According to Wade, this job is a dream come true, as he said in his statement that he saw this moment before it happened. MVSU alum Kendrick Wade says, “The Time is Now” as the school’s 18th Head Football Coach | Mississippi Valley State University

Kendrick Wade's statements and his story sound very familiar. It sounds almost line for line, like the story of Jackson State University’s new coach TC Taylor. Taylor also returned to his alma mater after a successful playing career at Jackson State, enjoying success in professional leagues, and playing a vital role on a good coaching staff. The only significant difference is what TC Taylor is taking over versus what Wade will inherit at Mississippi Valley. While TC Taylor is losing a lot of good players like Travis Hunter, Sheduer Sanders, Aubrey Miller, Kevin Coleman, and others, he will bringing back a few major contributors from last year’s SWAC championship team. Including 1,000-yard rusher Sy’Veon Wilkerson and sack artist Nyles Gaddy. Meanwhile, Wade lost his top offensive rushing weapon to Prairie View in running back Caleb Johnson and he is taking over a team that went 2-9 and ranked last in the SWAC East. TC Taylor also has a few recruiting advantages that Wade wouldn’t have, like completely renovated training facilities and a passionate fan base that has led the FCS in average attendance over the last few years. In 2021, Jackson State averaged 42,293 fans per home game, a sub-division record. In 2022, Jackson State averaged 42,049 fans, but that slight dip in attendance may be because the Tigers were on television or some streaming platform nearly every week last season. Those facts can help sell recruits on attending Jackson State. Wade won’t have that luxury. Mississippi Valley State averaged 3,851 fans at their home games (reference:"cs-football-20"2-attendance-leaders-bzbz/amp/). Couple that with the fact that last year a visit to Mississippi Valley’s football facilities inspired a “call to action” for Coach Deion Sanders to help repair the practice and the game field, and one could assume that the fan base and the facilities at MVST wouldn't be a high selling point for recruits.

So, comparing TC Taylor to Wade may be a bit of a stretch, and even including TC Taylor in comparison to Reed wouldn’t be a study where one can minimize enough variables.

The study that will be very interesting to follow over the next few years is Coach Kendrick Wade and Ed Reed. NFL Hall of Famer Ed Reed was hired earlier this week by Bethune-Cookman University to serve as the 16th head football coach in the school's history. Ed Reed has been an advisor to Miami University's last two head coaches and he served on the Buffalo Bills coaching staff in 2018. Reed was hired to take the place of former Bethune-Cookman's head football coach Terry Sims, who was fired in November. Reed walks into a situation very similar to the one at Mississippi Valley State. Bethune-Cookman’s Athletic Director Reggie Theus admitted that the private HBCU in Daytona, Florida, does not have many resources or the best athletic facilities. Also similar to Mississippi Valley, Bethune-Cookman averaged under 7,000 attendees at their home games last season. This puts Coach Ed Reed in a similar recruiting situation to Coach Kendrick Wade. The Wildcats also finished tied with the Delta Devils for last place in the SWAC East with a matching record of 2-6 in conference play and 2-9 overall. So while differences like school location, Florida vs. Mississippi, are apparent, the primary variable between the two new hires at Bethune-Cookman and MVST is that one is an NFL Hall of Famer with minimal coaching experience, while the other is an alum that worked his way through the coaching ranks. This study will have fascinating dependent variables (measurables) (1) Which Coach recruits better classes over the next two seasons? (2) Which coach wins more games? (3) Which coach increases their school’s national exposure and name recognition? (4) Which coach can hire a better supporting staff? (5) Which coach can send more athletes to the NFL in the next three seasons? (6) Which coach’s players have better academic success? There are a lot of factors to assess in the study, and also some small variables to consider. Nevertheless, this will be a fascinating story for HBCU fans to follow over the next few years.


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