Mack to lead NCCU football program

Dec. 20, 2013 @ 07:14 AM

The month-long coaching search at N.C. Central has turned up the former wide receivers coach at the University of South Alabama.

“I want to explain something to the NCCU community,” Jerry Mack said during a press conference in the university’s Alphonso Elder Student Union on Thursday. “Jerry Mack is simply the gatekeeper of the program. That’s all I am. Without the support of the community, without the support of the fans, without the support of the alumni, I cannot be successful. We need everybody on board. We need people in the cafeteria, admissions office, financial-aid office — all across campus, we must all be one family.

“Teamwork makes the dream work.”

NCCU chancellor Debra Saunders-White said the search committee was looking for a motivator.

“We found that motivator,” Saunders-White said. “We found that coach.”

And Saunders-White was unequivocally clear that NCCU did not merely end up with Mack, a 33-year-old from Memphis, Tenn., a guy who’s never been a head coach. That’s contrary to a prevailing thought floating around that NCCU either got snubbed by former Winston-Salem State coach Connell Maynor or outbid by the folks at Hampton who just hired him.

Mack was NCCU’s first choice, both Saunders-White and NCCU athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree said. He was not NCCU’s only option, and Mack said there were other schools that wanted him to lead their football programs.

“But I think at the end of the day, this was the best option that fit Jerry Mack and his family,” Mack said. “I see a diamond right here at North Carolina Central.”
NCCU was 5-7 this past season under interim coach Dwayne Foster, who Wicker-McCree elevated from his role as assistant head coach after she fired Henry Frazier III in August.

In 2010, Wicker-McCree hired Frazier, known as a guy with a reputation for turning around struggling football teams, and he, in fact, in 2012 delivered NCCU’s first winning season since 2007.

But Frazier was arrested twice after joining NCCU. In the summer of 2012, he pleaded guilty to assaulting Lanier Turner-Frazier, his ex-wife. He was arrested again this past summer for allegedly violating a domestic-violence protective order that dictated the terms of his relationship with Turner-Frazier. A Wake County judge found him not guilty of that charge, but that was in September and Frazier had been terminated by then.

Wicker-McCree used the press conference to thank Foster for taking over the football program during a difficult time. She did not mention Frazier.
Foster applied for NCCU’s coaching vacancy, but Wicker-McCree would not say whether he was granted an interview.

“We’re beginning a new chapter in NCCU’s history,” Saunders-White said during the press conference that included alumni, players and coaches from NCCU’s basketball teams, NCCU’s baseball coach and some of the assistant football coaches from the Foster-Frazier era.

Southern High School football coach Adrian Jones was there, too, and Mack gave a shout-out to his team for winning the 3-AA championship over the weekend.

Jones, 39, both played and served as an assistant coach at NCCU.

Wherever Mack’s been as a coach, he hasn’t stayed particularly long. After playing football at Jackson State and Arkansas State, Mack worked as a graduate assistant at Delta State from 2004-05. In 2006-07, he coached wide receivers and tight ends at Jackson State. From 2008-09, he both coached wide receivers and was the passing-game coordinator at Central Arkansas. In 2010, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In 2011, he coached wide receivers at Memphis and from there went to South Alabama.

At NCCU, he’s the third-youngest active head coach in Division I football behind Davidson’s Paul Nichols and Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck.
Mack is young, but he’s ready, Wicker-McCree said. People in both college and pro football vouched for Mack’s credentials, she said.
Wicker-McCree said NCCU gave her an opportunity to spread her wings as a young Eagles volleyball coach. She did the same thing for LeVelle Moton, hiring him to lead NCCU’s basketball program without any experience as a college head coach.

Moton said Mack wants to lean on him for advice. The new coach will be fine, and the alums will treat him right, Moton said.

“They don’t care about his age,” Moton said. “It’s not his age that matters. It’s just about the productivity.”

Young coaches are what the folks running college sports programs are after these days, former NCCU quarterback Jordan Reid said.

This past season was Reid’s last as a college football player. He said the returning Eagles will dig Mack.

“He’s definitely a bright, young, charismatic coach,” Reid said.

Of course, similar things were said of Frazier, who, like Mack, has a great, big smile.

Also like Frazier, Mack won’t be afraid to spread the field when the football gets kicked off. As NCCU’s player personnel permits, the Eagles’ offense primarily will operate based on a one-back, no-huddle scheme, Mack said.

“Just know we’re going to be fast-paced, and we’re going to stay on the cutting edge,” Mack said. “We’re going to attack. We’re going to always be in attack mode, whether that’s offense or whether that’s defense. So fans, you need to get ready, because it’s going down in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.”

That amplified the Eagle pride, drawing oohs and ahhs from around the room.