Mystery Shrouds JSU's Comegy Firing

Comegy's firing came 11 days after his Tigers appeared in their second straight SWAC championship game, which they lost 34-27 to Southern University in double overtime. That loss came on the tail end of an 8-3 season in which the Tigers won eight SWAC games and lost just one. Overall, Comegy guided the Tigers to a 55-35 record and four SWAC championship appearances, including a title win in 2007.

Comegy's firing came 11 days after his Tigers appeared in their second straight SWAC championship game, which they lost 34-27 to Southern University in double overtime. That loss came on the tail end of an 8-3 season in which the Tigers won eight SWAC games and lost just one. Overall, Comegy guided the Tigers to a 55-35 record and four SWAC championship appearances, including a title win in 2007.

Normally, when high-profile college head football coaches get axed, the school's athletic director and, sometimes even the university's president, convene a press conference to explain the decision and allay concerns about the future of the program.

There was nothing normal about Jackson State University's handling of its decision to fire Rick Comegy, announced Wednesday morning. In this case, JSU Athletic Director Vivian Fuller issued a statement thanking the 60-year-old Comegy for his service, but offered no explanation or even a forward look at what kind of coach the school would like to hire next.

Instead, the university sent public-relations representative and former JSU football player Eric Stringfellow to a Wednesday press conference on the second floor of the H.P. Jacobs Administration Tower. Assembled news media peppered Stringfellow with questions, such as "Why would Jackson State fire a coach with an 8-1 (Southwestern Athletic Conference) record?" and, perhaps more importantly, "Where is Vivian Fuller?" and "What is the future of Jackson State football?"

Neither Fuller nor JSU President Carolyn Meyers attended the press conference and Stringfellow said neither would be available for follow up interviews. When asked about Fuller's absence, Stringfellow said she was doing her job and meeting with players.

Comegy's firing came 11 days after his Tigers appeared in their second straight SWAC championship game, which they lost 34-27 to Southern University in double overtime. That loss came on the tail end of an 8-3 season in which the Tigers won eight SWAC games and lost just one. Overall, Comegy guided the Tigers to a 55-35 record and four SWAC championship appearances, including a title win in 2007.

"This decision wasn't just about wins and losses," Stringfellow told reporters. "This is about the direction of the program. This is about our student athletes, putting them in position to be successful in the classroom and wherever else they'll be."

In recent years, Comegy at times struggled meeting goals of the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate, which is designed to ensure that student-athletes are meeting benchmarks in the classroom as well as on the field. A four-year average under 900 will earn a team NCAA sanctions.

Under Comegy, JSU went on the ascent starting in 2008, when the school's APR for the academic year was 872. JSU's APR surged to 971 in 2011-2012, a shade under University of Notre Dame University's 973 the year.

Antonio Knight, Comegy's former recruiting coordinator, will take over as interim head coach and is tasked with holding together the 2014 JSU recruiting class. Stringfellow said Knight's contract would be renewed, but the decision retaining other assistants would fall to the next head coach.

Among the characteristics Stringfellow said the university is looking for in its next coach was "recruiting locally" and "instilling discipline" in the players. A look at the current roster shows eight players from Jackson Public Schools, and five more from the greater Jackson area--a region that traditionally sends its best players to other in-state schools--Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss, all of which compete in the highest division of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision.

While the decision was questionable, the absence of university administration was glaring. Stringfellow did not announce a timetable for finding a new coach, but listed the members of the search committee, which includes Fuller, JSU Vice President of Business and Finance Michael Thomas, JSU Vice President of Institutional Advancement David Hoard, JSU Provost James Renick, President of JSU National Alumni Association Terry Woodard, JSU Alumni Players Association Mario Kirksey and Jackson Police Chief Lindsey Horton.

Comegy will receive a $50,000 buyout from as a result of JSU terminating his contract before its expiration date, Dec. 31 2014.


Comments

justjess 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Why won't these cowards just simply say, "We want to WIN - not SOMETIME, but, EVERY TIME".

Stringfellow's commentary and reason for Comegy's termination was laced with pure crap. It doesn't make sense! Surely he knows that if you want to WIN all games then you can't limit your recruitment of players to a local pool of players. What is the deal with Stringfellow's suggestion that the Coach needs to put the players in position for success in the classroom. Is this the job of the Coach, only? Are you kidding me. It takes more than the football village to raise a successful student. It takes a caring President, Athletic Director and supportive Professors..

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Turtleread 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Stringfellow was not my favorite reporter at the Clarion newspaper in Jackson when he worked there. Many times he wrote slanted pieces and seemed more concerned with getting his personal opinion "out there" or "grinding an ax." He would also leave information out of his articles. Being a PR person probably suits him better. There is a lot more to this story than is being told so far.

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CarolinaTiger 11 months, 1 week ago

I hope we have a homerun pick lined up. Otherwise, we will provide moving vans for the administration. "Remember James Bell and Ronald Mason."

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NotLikeU 11 months, 1 week ago

From how JSU has been conducting themselves, there's something brewing. I wouldn't rely on Stringfellow's words too strongly. He didn't conduct the interview too well overall. You can't make these kind of moves without direction. There is a vision and JSU is creating the team to be some of the pieces of that vision. Once the pieces are in place, there will be an official announcement of what's going on at JSU. I'm just going to wait and see.

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ohack 11 months, 1 week ago

A very bad decision--at best!

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mebeingme32 11 months, 1 week ago

Hey all, I see all of the news reports that JSU is putting out about no discipline, recruit local talent and be a community minded coach. It has me pissed about the bashing that JSU and Fuller are doing. But they fail to to talk about the bigger issue that Coach Comegy has been successful despite of Lack of SCHOLARSHIPS And Poor Facilities!
Everybody talking about recruiting local talent but how are you going to recruit local talent. They don't know the inner workings. when the FCS standard for scholarships is 63 and JSU Operates at a equivalency of 56 scholarships. There are schools in the SWAC giving 63 scholarships but not JSU and Comegy still was successful with this. The truth needs to be know. T. B. Ellis Annex is falling in and on a solid rain day ceiling tile will begin to fall in. Back to Back SWAC Championships and this can't improve the turf at the practice fields. Tell the administration to address that. Merry Christmas!

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