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By ROSCOE NANCE
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Simply put, Alabama State football
Coach Houston Markham has a long way to
go and a short time to get there.
Markham was named the Hornets'
coach on July 23, replacing Jim Parker, who
, was asked to resign in May. That gives him
less than two months to put together a staff,
meet his squad, install his system and prepare
for the Sept 12 season opener with
Those are only a few of the obstacles
Markham faces. The Hornets are arguably
the worst team in the Southwestern Athletic
Conference. They haven't had a winning
record since 1981. They are 8-30-1 in the
SWAC since becoming a member in 1980,
and the NCAA has put them on probation
twice in the last three years.
It makes one wonder why Markham,
44 - seemingly of sound mind ? would
leave an established program like Jackson
State where he was an assistant for 12 years
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"When I look at Alabama State, I see a
vision of a big challenge," said Markham.
"J see a big hill. I'm a climber, and I'm
determined to climb that hill. They've predicted
us to be the worst team in the league
this year, and they were probably the worst
team in the league last year. I know the
challenge is a great one.H
Markham, a 1965 Alcorn State graduate,
has had hills to climb before. He was
head coach - a rarity for blacks - in Vicksburg
when Mississippi high schools were
first integrated in the '60s and compiled a
A Changing Of The Guard
By ROSCOE NANCE
Review Staff Writer
A changing of the guard has taken place
in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in
No longer is Grambling the conference's
dominant football team. Jackson State has
usurped that title.
* The Tigers have won five SWAC titles -three
outright and two co-championships -- in
the decade of the '80s while posting a 37-9 ~
record in conference play and going unbeaten
against SWAC opponents twice.
Still, when talk turns to SWAC football,
Grambling is the school that leads off the conversation.
"Grambling is kind of like Notre Dame,"
said Jackson State sports information direction
Sam Jefferson. "No matter what their
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they think of winning. It's the same with
Gramblmg. As long as Eddie (Robinson) is
there, it's going to be a legendary school."
The Grambling mystique has been built
a Coach Houst
66-16-3 in his eight seasons.
"That was a hot potato," said Southern
Coach Marino Casern, who coached
Markham at Alcorn. "He handled it He'll
be all right at Alabama State."
Markham isn't deluding himself into
thinking he won't have another "hot potato"
on his hands on and off the field when he
gets to Montgomery, Ala.
Besides having to rebuild the football
program, Markham will have to win over
skeptical alumni who see him as an outsider
who got the job over Clemson assistant
Woodrow McCorvey and Hornet
defensive backfield Coach Jerome Harper,
two Alabama State graduates.
"I had that problem at Jackson State,"
said Markham. "I fought off being an
Alcornite in Jackson for 12 years. If you
don't beat around the bush, you'll win people
over. If you put up a few Ws, people
will get behind you."
Markham doesn't profess to know of
any miraculous ways to "put up Ws." So he
says he'll try to build the Hornets step by
"No.l, I want to build for tomorrow,"
he said. "I don't want to fly by night, win
six or seven games this year and then the
bottom falls out next year. I want discipline
and morale and a good staff, it's going to
take a couple of years. HI take the blows if
they'll let me do it my way. I know the
wolves are waiting. I'm an outsider, but I'm
going to make it work."
One of the main things Markham has
to do is make the Hornets' offense more
productive. They have not averaged 17
points a game in any of the last six seasons.
e, not Gramblinj
over more than four decades with Robinson -
the winningest coach in college history ?prowling
"the sidelines. i*ut -all "the while,?
Jackson State has been gaining on the GMen.
"Jackson has been overshadowed
because of Eddie's quest for the record," said
Southern University coach and athletic director
Marino H. Casern. "You have to understand
White America recognized that quest.
But the vast majority don't recognize the
level of play within the conference^
They think it's a three-ring circus. Even
if they don't respect our play, they say to win
that many games and surpass an individual of
Bear Bryant's status is an accomplishment on
Jackson State's accomplishments are
noteworthy, even though they have not been
achieved over a long period of time. The
Tigers have made five appearances in the IAA
playoffs. Only Eastern Kentucky, with
seven, has more. Nevada-Reno also has been
in the playoffs five times. That's pretty fast
company when you consider all the schools
on Markham h
While he was Jackson State's offensive
coordinator, Markham helped the
Tigers install the Wishbone in the late '70s.
The Tigers went on to become the No.l
rushing team in NCAA Division I-AA for
the next several years.
But Markham says he won't necessari
ly Dring a run-onented offense with him to
Alabama State, even though the Hornets
have in Brad Baxter one of the top running
backs in the nation.
Baxter, the SWAC offensive player of
the year, rushed for 1,705 yards and scored
NI like a wide open, multiple offense...
throw the ball around," said Markham.
"But you have to run the ball. WhaftI
envision is balance. But you have to have
the personnel. I know you have to get the
ball to a guy like Baxter."
This is Markham's first head coaching
job on the college level. He says he has
been preparing for it since his sophomore
year at Alcorn. But he was still surprised
when it came along.
"After a while, 1 just put becoming a?
head coach out of my mind," he said. "I
was comfortable. Not being a person with a
big ego, I was happy being an assistant It
caught me off guard when Alabama State
approached me. Some other positions had
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job where I had to politic to get it The ball
got rolling and it kept rolling. They convinced
me 1 am the person they wanted."
Jackson State Coach W.C. Gorden is
convinced Markham is the right man for
Alabama State. He should know. He has
known Markham since day one of his
g, dominates the
that are in I-AA.
Even more noteworthy is the fact that
Jackson State is among the I-AA attendance ?
leaders year in and year out
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rcupic wno reaiiy waicn tootoaii real-,
ize we're the team of the UOs in the SWAC,"
said Coach W.C. Gorden. "We've accomplished
quite a bit as a football power. It doesn't
bother me that we are not recognized to
the same degree as Grambling. Our motivation
comes from within."
Casern qualifies as something of an
expert on how and why Jackson State's stock
has risen. He was the Tigers' No.l intrastate
rival for more than 20 years as coach at
"Jackson's a helluva place to recruit," he
said. "It's the hub of a state that's a rural state.
Everything that's happening in Mississippi is
happening in Jackson. Mississippi has a lot of
outstanding black talent in every role. Jackson
is like a magnet for that talent They pull
in more good talent by accident than a lot can
get on purpose."
Attracting talent is only half the battle.
as little time izr=
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Markham: "A vision of a big challenge"
at Alabama State.
The two first met when Markham was
at Alcorn and doing his student teaching at
Eva Gordon High in Magnolia, Miss.,
where Gorden was head coach. When
Markham graduated, Gorden hired him as
his offensive line coach.
"His strongest point is his dedication
to working," said Gorden. "He can come to
work at 7 a.m. and stav until 1 a.m. or 2
a.m., long after everybody else is gone. I
have no doubt he will be successful. He has
the intelligence, dedication and discipline
to do so.M
Roscoe Nance is a sportswriter for USA
Todaya/tda Review columnist.
Jackson State also knows how to develop that
talent Recent NFL drafts bear that out. In an
-era when athletes from black schools are a
rarity in the draft, Jackson State still makes its
The Buffalo Bills chose Chris Burkett on
the second round in 1985 and selected defensive
end Leon Seals on the fourth round this
^year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose
linebacker Jackie Walker on the second round
'We amtiil able to get five or six bluechippers
who have kept our program competitive,"
Black coaches seldom if ever are credited
with being superior when it comes to
teaching fundamentals and plotting strategy.
But given Jackson State's success, its staff
must be doing something right
The strength of our team is the coaching
staff," said Gorden. "We're proving that with
the guys who have been hired away from us
and who have been getting inquiries."
2&555BE5S555 August 1967 - Page 9