In less than a month as the new head football coach at Bethune-Cookman University — a Historically Black College & University (HBCU) — Ed Reed has already unsurprisingly proven why he never should have been hired. Over the weekend, the College and Pro Football Hall of Famer took to social media to rant and rave in expletive-filled monologues about how Deion Sanders “was not wrong about HBCUs,” and how leadership at HBCUs somehow have “broken mentalities.” All of this is from a man that still hasn’t blown a whistle at an official practice yet.
Updated on Jan. 21, 2023:
This is what happens when schools believe that following the Jackson State model with Deion Sanders is sustainable, and when a grown man mimics another grown man.
“I just pulled up to work. We’re going to try to help y’all too man. Because I know a lot of HBCUs need help,” said Reed in one of his social media videos. I’m just here to help here first. I see it all too clearly. All of our HBCUs need help. And they need help because of the people who’s running it. Broken mentalities out here. I’m going to leave you with that. I gotta get in the office.”
“I’ve been here for a week and a half and have done more than people that have been here in freaking years. And I’m not even hired yet. Damn shame,” Reed claimed.
Reed later issued an apology in which he blamed his lack of professionalism on his passion. “I fell victim while engaging with antagonists on social media as well,” he wrote. But, the damage was already done. A program that was 2-9 last season, and a university that’s still dealing with the fallout from the pandemic as well as the ramifications from a hurricane that altered campus operations, is now dealing with Reed’s unnecessary antics. Not only is Reed an outsider when it comes to the HBCU landscape, but he also doesn’t check any of the boxes when it comes to coaching or running a program. His lone experience was as an assistant coach in the NFL for one season, and serving as an advisor and the chief of staff for the football program at his alma mater — the University of Miami.
Reed’s decision to run to social media to belittle Bethune-Cookman is very reminiscent of when Sanders did something similar to inform us that his car had been broken into and that some of his personal items had been stolen after his first game. Sanders would later inform us, via social media, that the items that were taken from his car were returned. It was also later learned that Sanders’ things had been moved, and not stolen during his coaching debut.
The frustrations and anger that both Sanders and Reed may have felt about what comes with the jobs they willingly accepted are more than understandable. However, what isn’t, is that two grown men — who are also two of the greatest players in football history — ran to the internet, or a friend with a microphone posing as a journalist, to air unnecessarily dirty laundry in a way that is reminiscent of teenagers trying to get their “likes” and “engagement” up on TikTok. This is beyond childish behavior. These are the acts of men with juvenile thought processes, who then dare to require accountability when they haven’t proven that they are even capable of their own requests. And then, to insult the mentalities and commitment of the students, alumni, faculty, and staff at HBCUs as if these great institutions are operating like struggling mom-and-pop stores is not only repulsive but the shining example of why both of these men are a detriment to the culture and HBCUs as a whole. Reed and Sanders exemplify why the celebrity coach trend at HBCUs needs to be eradicated and banished — forever.
For the smart people in the room that always understood that Sanders would never be the so-called savior of HBCUs, Reed’s rants are exactly what we meant when we said that Sanders didn’t make things better for HBCUs as a whole. He simply made things better for JSU’s football team for three seasons, and even then, he choked in the biggest game…twice.
And if Reed’s antics aren’t enough to warrant why the trend of hiring celebrity coaches needs to end at HBCUs, then Hue Jackson at Grambling State is Exhibit A. Before he even coached his first game, Jackson made headlines for doubling down on trying to hire Art Briles as his offensive coordinator — a man that’s been all but banished from coaching after being an alleged serial rape enabler during his tenure as the head coach of Baylor. [Editor’s note: An NCAA report at the time found that Briles “failed to meet even the most basic expectations of how a person should react to the kind of conduct at issue in this case.”] And now, Jackson — who is coming off a 3-8 debut season — is doing recruiting videos on social media that are copycatting Sanders’ “I’m bringing my luggage with me, and it’s Louis,” quote from when he told players at Colorado about the recruits he would be signing. In the video, Jackson is posing with expensive luggage next to a Maybach. This is the same man that accumulated an 11-44 record as an NFL head coach.
However, if there is one celebrity coach that is doing it the right way, it’s Eddie George at Tennessee State. Next season, the Tigers will make history as the first HBCU to play at Notre Dame Stadium. It appears that George has done the work by listening, asking questions, and understanding what comes with being involved with HBCUs and HBCU athletics. “The bigger issue the school (TSU) is fighting is the money that’s owed to them from the land grant from the last 50 years. And that’s something that can be a huge shot in the arm for our institution,” said George in a recent interview on the obstacles that so many ignore, or are uneducated about, that HBCUs continually face.
These are the things that keep the leadership at HBCUs up at night, not worrying if Reed’s office is clean enough. Because what Reed, Sanders, and so many others have failed to notice is that athletics have never been a top priority at HBCUs, and never will. They’re not the reason that these institutions were founded, have survived, and are still thriving. The big man, or woman, on The Yard (campus) will never be an athlete, as they’re usually at the bottom of the social ladder. And if you think something is wrong with that, or that it needs to change, it’s proof that an HBCU isn’t for you.
But even still, some of Reed’s irritations are warranted. Just because athletics aren’t the first priority at HBCUs, it doesn’t mean more can’t be done. Back in 2013, Grambling’s football team boycotted for almost a week due to the conditions of their team facilities, long bus trips to road games, and personnel decisions. And at the time that this was written, Morehouse College — a place where Doug Williams and Todd Bowles once spent time on the sidelines coaching — still hasn’t hired a new head football coach.
We have to do better. We must do better.
But, hiring men like Reed and Sanders isn’t the answer. They’re focused on what HBCUs can do for them instead of what they can do for HBCUs. And at some point, we have to hold the schools accountable for making these flash-in-the-pan hires that don’t help in the long run. The public — and HBCUs themselves — have got to stop viewing these campuses as soft landing spots, or places where you can “get your foot in the door.” These are top-tier institutions that produce alumni who change the world.
In closing, the best example of why Ed Reed doesn’t deserve to be affiliated with Bethune-Cookman University, or any other HBCU, is a video clip of him giving a passionate halftime speech to his teammates when he played at Miami. “I put my heart in this sh*t! Let’s go, man!” he screams. If a man with that much passion and determination can’t bring that same energy in a positive way to a school that was founded by one of this world’s best educators, philanthropists, humanitarians, and civil rights activists (Mary McLeod Bethune) then the answer is simple — fire Ed Reed.