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Volume 20 No. 46
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A push toward diversity in the coaching ranks

When Mike Slive arrived at the SEC in 2002, the conference had never had a minority head football coach. That changed on Dec. 1, 2003, when Mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom.

Larry Templeton, who became one of Slive’s closest friends, was Mississippi State’s athletic director and hired Croom. He said he didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the moment until years later.

“In the hiring process, I was running a lot of things by Mike because we had a potential NCAA violation pending against

In 2003, Mississippi State made Sylvester Croom the first minority head football coach in the SEC.
Photo by: Getty Images
us,” Templeton said. “So, before interviews I would ask him to check out those people [potential candidates]. He knew every step of where we were in the hiring process. But he never said, ‘You need to hire a minority.’”

Templeton decided to offer Croom, then an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers, the job, and all Slive said was “Let me know how I can help.”

“I had to make a second trip to Green Bay to convince Sylvester to take the job,” Templeton said. “I called the commissioner on the way to Green Bay to tell him he hasn’t taken the job


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yet, and I asked him for advice. He just said, ‘Be yourself, be who you are, let him know what we are.’ It’s not like he said, ‘Do whatever it takes.’”

Once Croom was hired, Slive, in his usually understated way, emailed Templeton.

“I’m proud of you and your university,” it read.

“It wasn’t until a couple of years later that he told me how much that hire meant to the conference and what a significant event that was,” Templeton said.

Slive went on to create a database with every minority assistant in Division I and sent it to ADs, Templeton said. He also helped start a minority coaches forum.

In Slive’s 13 years, the SEC has had five minority head football coaches. The SEC and Big Ten each will start the season with two African-American coaches, while the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 will have one apiece.