NCCU football fans ponder Frazier-less future
While N.C. Central football coach Henry Frazier III is in Texas this morning making his pitch to become Prairie View A&M University’s next director of athletics, Eagles fans are left to ponder a possible Frazier-less future.
Frazier is one of six finalists — winnowed down from 42 original applicants — for the Prairie View AD post. He revitalized the school’s moribund football program — it lost 80 straight games from 1989–98 — before coming to NCCU before the 2011 season.
Individual on-campus forums for the AD finalists have been set up at which they can share their visions for Prairie View athletics with the public. Frazier’s session is at 9 a.m.
There has been no apparent friction during the job pursuit between NCCU and Frazier, whose five-year contract runs through the 2015 season and pays him a base salary of $225,000 annually.
NCCU athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree has said Frazier, who is pursuing a doctorate through Prairie View, has her support. Frazier himself says the opportunity to move into sports administration is intriguing.
NCCU alumnus Louis Richards said the football program has his support, with or without Frazier.
“As a lifetime alum, you’re not going to let that go away just because the coach leaves,” Richards said. “Coaches come and go.”
But Richards, a 1979 graduate, credits Frazier for putting air under the Eagles’ wings.
“He is the reason for the success of the team,” Richards said. “But I was a fan back in the day when we were losing. My interest in the team didn’t peak just because he showed up.”
Frazier’s arrival coincided with an NCCU football revival.
The Eagles are coming off their first winning season since 2007, finishing 6-5 in 2012, 5-3 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in only their second season of Division I football.
During spring drills, Frazier said his goal this season is an MEAC title and its accompanying berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Frazier’s words can be taken to the bank, NCCU Sports Network analyst and school Hall of Fame running back Joe Simmons said.
“That’s one of the reasons other places are interested. He’s done what he said he was going to do wherever he’s been,” Simmons said.“In years one and two, it seemed like he was a prophet.”
The upcoming season would be Frazier’s third at NCCU, a program that started playing at the FCS level in 2011, Frazier’s first season.
NCCU contended for an MEAC title in 2012 before sputtering at the end and finishing third.
Simmons said he’d like to see Frazier stay and carry out his plan. He came to Durham talking about having a winning record in his second season and vying for a MEAC title in his third campaign, Simmons said, adding: “He’s been on track.”
Frazier, who has also coached at Bowie State, arrived at NCCU after resurrecting the Prairie View program, leading the Aggies to winning records from 2007-10, including back-to-back 9-1 seasons in 2008 and 2009 and a Southwestern Athletic Conference title.
There likely is some disappointment among NCCU’s football players at the thought of possibly having to adjust to another coach after getting used to Frazier’s way of doing things, Simmons said. He added that players understand that coaches move on and nothing is carved in stone as far as Frazier’s departure is concerned.
“For a player (at) this time, there’s no real panic,” Simmons said.
It’s not like Frazier’s trying to return to the sideline at Prairie View, so this isn’t the sort of situation that should cause anybody to question Frazier’s commitment to NCCU football, Simmons said.
“If he was going somewhere to coach, there probably would be some players who would be thinking that,” Simmons said, adding: “This is an opportunity for him to advance and do something big.”
Graduated 2012-13 NCCU student body president Reggie McCrimmon, who’s now working for NCCU alumnus and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., on Capitol Hill, said that whatever happens with Frazier won’t keep him from coming to football games at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
“This might affect the morale or maybe the players, and if it affects the players, it may affect the way they play,” McCrimmon said. “If the players keep it together, then the campus will stand behind them.”