The short, volatile relationship between NFL Hall of Famer Ed Reed and Bethune-Cookman University has ended roughly a month after it began. The University decided not to ratify Reed's contract after he posted two Instagram videos about the issues at Cookman:
These profanity-laced tirades included him saying that the people running HBCUs have broken mentalities and he'd done more in a week and a half than others have done in years. Reed expressed his disgust at his office not being cleaned upon his arrival, saying that he isn't getting paid yet and should leave.
Reed's second post leads to some interesting questions. Did he tour the campus before accepting the position? Should he have expected a clean office though his contract had yet to be ratified? How many HBCU administrators does he know to conclude that their mentalities are broken? What proof does he have of this after being there for less than a month?
Reed's hire made a lot of sense:
Athletic Director Reggie Theus and the Bethune-Cookman administration were trying to capture lightning in a bottle with Reed. The hire made a lot of sense in many ways. Reed, a Louisiana native, made a name for himself as one of the legendary defensive backs at Miami from 1988-2001, winning a National Title and being voted a consensus All-American in 2001.
Reed kept ties in Florida despite playing most of his NFL career in Baltimore and held a residence in the state. Reed became Chief of Staff at his alma mater under former head coach Manny Diaz in 2020. Bethune-Cookman thought they could replicate what Jackson State had in Deion Sanders. It is fair to conclude that Ed Reed is not Deion Sanders and Bethune-Cookman is not Jackson State.
Where it all went wrong:
Bethune-Cookman announced an agreement in principle to hire Reed as its next head coach in a short, terse announcement on the website. There is usually a presser soon after the announcement of a new head coach. Reed never got his press conference. Many schools wait until their board approves the contract to announce the hire.
Andscape.com senior writer William C. Rhoden contacted the University several times to see when a presser was forthcoming and if Reed was officially on staff. The University's reply was they could not connect with Coach Reed for interviews, and the process was ongoing. Not long after, Reed's frustration with the process boiled over, and the first Instagram post was made.
When Reed faced backlash from HBCU media, students, and alums about the comments, he doubled down with another profanity-laced Instagram post in which he said he should leave. Reed apologized for making the posts but not for what he said. The apology was too little, too late, as the University decided to reopen the search for a head coach.
Somehow Reed was allowed access to recruits and the facility amid this controversy and delivered yet another profanity-laced speech to potential recruits and their families who came. Maybe Reggie Theus and Bethune-Cookman should have laid all their cards on the table before bringing Reed aboard.
For Reed, it was not about being right or wrong. It was about representing the University professionally. Reed's frustration about the process should have been handled internally.
The fact that students and football players alike protested and petitioned the University to reinstate Reed showed the early and immediate impact he had on those young people. The University, reeling from two hurricanes, has significant issues. However, it is implausible that the University will backtrack from its decision not to bring Reed aboard.
This should be a lesson for both Bethune-Cookman and Reed. For the Wildcats, there is no need to chase the "celebrity" coach. They need someone to teach the game and help mold young men for life. Cookman, a small, private university founded in 1904 by Mary McLeod Bethune and merging with Cookman Institute in 1923, doesn't have the rich football history of Jackson State, which boasts four NFL Hall of Famers.
If Ed Reed wants to be a head coach, hopefully, he will learn the art of diplomacy from this situation. He did not have a handle on HBCU culture. Reed's words and actions came off as hubris, like coming to "cape up" and save everyone. Just because he's a Hall of Famer does not guarantee he would have been a good coach.
There is little doubt that Reed's motives were in the right place, but his actions cost him the opportunity to impact the University the way that he wanted.