Five-a-Side: Texas Southern's Kevin Ramsey
By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Conference champions aren't supposed to have the type of offseason that Texas Southern has had since it won the Southwestern Athletic Conference football title in December - its first in 42 years.
This spring, head coach Johnnie Cole was shown the door because of the program's poor academic performances and then NCAA sanctions were levied against the Tigers, including the loss of 14.78 of their 63 scholarships and four hours of practice time each week.
The university promoted defensive coordinator Kevin Ramsey to interim head coach and he has tried to settle the program, maintaining the "storm" will pass as the Tigers strengthen their academic requirements stardards.
Ramsey appears well-suited for the job. Not only was his defense top-ranked in the FCS last season, but he has an impressive background, including time as defensive secondary coach for the Arizona Cardinals, defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, linebackers coach at Kansas State, defensive line coach and secondary coach at Northwestern, and defensive secondary coach at West Virginia and Tennessee. During his four years at Tennessee (1995-99), the Vols won the first BCS national title.
Ramsey, who will turn 50 on Sept. 5, has revamped TSU's offensive coaching staff, including the hiring of Charlie Coe, the head coach of Alabama State's 2004 SWAC championship squad, as offensive coordinator.
Ramsey is looking to raise the bar higher after TSU went 9-3 last season. Despite some key losses, including SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Dejuan Fulgham, the Tigers will have plenty of talented players.
Marcus Wright is the SWAC's top returning rusher (1,212 yards, eight touchdowns) and Riko Smalls was the quarterback in the SWAC title game. He will be pushed by Troy transfer Dontavius Parker, a left-hander who has impressed coaches since arriving on campus.
Defensively, end Marquis Jackson is the unquestioned leader.
Texas Southern could face more Academic Progress Report (APR) penalties next year. If Ramsey does a good job in the meantime, he would figure to be installed as the permanent head coach.
In Five-a-Side - In the Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Ramsey discusses how Texas Southern's program is moving forward after its difficult spring.
Let's kick off:
TSN: How has the situation gone since you have taken over the program?
KR: In spring ball, I just told the guys to reboot. We're headed in a positive direction, we're looking ahead that we're going to weather this storm like good sailors - that I need those guys to be like good sailors whenever the storm came about. They did that the rest of spring ball. Of course, I had to let go most of the guys (coaches) on the offensive side of the ball besides my offensive line coach.
TSN: Do you think because you've hired so many new coaches on the offensive end that people could perceive it as sort of a division between the offense and the defense last year?
KR: The division, you look at us, talent-wise, we led the nation in (total) defense, our offense led the nation in turnovers (actually TSU was second- worst). There were obvious changes that you could look at. We ran the ball well, but we were awful in protecting the football. But nevertheless, I'll be the first to say that that (title) we won a year ago was a team effort. But definitely when there's an opportunity to upgrade, you gotta upgrade. And that's what we're doing - we really upgraded on offense.
TSN: Now that you're settling in to your position, what are you enjoying most about being a head coach?
KR: With me, I always had the passion for these kids. I never want to be guilty of not demanding excellence from these guys. Now that pull of that demand has been increased. You know, you go from a position coach where you deal with your guys, you go from the position coach to the coordinator, and now being in the head coaching role being able to spread that even further. The fun part is to see the loyalty of these coaches, too, that I have surrounded myself with.
TSN: Obviously, your team is in the tougher division of the SWAC. Do you consider your team to be the one to beat?
KR: Boy, that Grambling, they still have that same talent that they had. I've still got a lot of respect for (Arkansas)-Pine Bluff. That game was real close. PV (Prairie View A&M), we haven't beaten them yet (since 2006). And Southern is awfully young, but they've got some talent. There's no doubt in our kids' minds that we have to outdo that man in the mirror day-by-day. We really have to outdo ourselves.
TSN: Where does Texas Southern stand with the NCAA review?
KR: Well, we got hit with some overall scholarships already and everybody has seen that. There's some things still up on review. We're looking ahead and within that review I can tell you right now that our APR is on the rise because of things that we set in place. I just hired a full-time academic person that is with us within our building. But above all it's been the culture of what we've been communicating to our kids. Really, most of our kids we have presently are great students."
06/20 11:52:29 ET