BLACK COLLEGE SPORTS HISTORY & LEGENDS

Casem Legacy

The Casem Legacy

Marino Casem
June 23, 1934 – Apr 25, 2020

“The GODFATHER”

“A winner, a (God)fatherly and an amazing football man”

Known as “The Godfather,” Casem had an overall record of 159-93-8 at three Southwestern Athletic Conference schools, coached four national championship teams at Alcorn State and was the National Black College Coach of the Year seven times. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Casem began his college football career as a center/linebacker at Xavier before the Gold Rush dropped the sport. He finished his playing days at Northern Colorado but graduated from Xavier in 1956.
After a stint in the Army, he honed his skills as an assistant coach at Utica Junior College and Alabama State before taking over as head coach in 1963. The first season ended with a 2-8 record, but the tone for success was already seen.

The next season, Casem accepted the head coaching job and athletic director’s role at Alcorn.
Casem was quoted as saying when he took over at Alcorn, a remote outpost, even for the SWAC. “[it was] one way in, one way out, unless you know the gravel roads.”
Casem went on to lead the upstart Braves, compiling a 132-65-8 record, and later showed he was a skillful administrator as well at Alcorn and later with Southern University at Baton Rouge.

Marino Casem, head football coach - Alcorn State
Marino “The Godfather” Casem

One of Casem’s career highlights with the Alcorn Braves came in 1984 in one of the greatest SWAC games ever played. He exclaimed this capped his greatest victory in a showdown against his coaching rival Archie Cooley and the highly touted tandem of quarterback Willie Totten and receiver Jerry Rice of Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils were averaging 59 points in its first seven games when the showdown happened.
But Casem had the perfect defensive game plan and shut down the ‘Devils, 42-28 victory.

They finished the regular season 9-0 and became the No. 1 team in Division I-AA (now FCS) – a milestone for a historically black college.
Over the years, he sent more than 60 of his Braves into NFL and CFL, including All-America defensive back Leslie Frazier, (later the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings).

 

As an athletic director, he became an important player in the NCAA, serving on elite committees including the Division I executive committee and football rules committee, the I-AA football committee and I-AA athletic directors committee.
His leadership and guidance help to formulate winning programs wherever he served.
He led Alcorn State to seven Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and four black college football national titles in 1968, 1969, 1974 and 1984.
Casem left Alcorn State after the 1985 season to become athletic director at Southern (1986-99), and twice took over the coaching reins when the Jaguars were floundering with 7-4 records in 1987 and 1988 and 5-6 in 1992.
He bridged the gap between head coaches Gerald Kimble and the highly successful Pete Richardson before completing his coaching ledger with a career record of 159-93-8.

Casem at the helm of the Alcorn Braves

Marino Casem-Alcorn State

Directing the Southern Jaguars to victory

Casem, Robinson, Gordon -SWAC

Coaching legends: Casem, Eddie Robinson, W.C. Gordon

Epilogue

He grew up in Memphis and graduated from college at Xavier in New Orleans, where he had studied to become a physical therapist. But while Casem waited for a job offer, his future wife lined up a football coaching job for him at Utica Junior College, where she then worked as an assistant to the president.

“The day I took the coaching job all the hospitals started calling,” Casem said. “So later on, every time Betty Jean would complain about the coaching business and all the long hours, I’d tell you, ‘Well if it hadn’t been for you I’d be running a hospital by now.’”

He probably would have, too, because Casem was a force of nature, possessor of a magnetic personality, high intellect and a work ethic that never stopped.

Quotes and Attributes

“On the East Coast, football is a cultural experience. In the Midwest, it’s a form of cannibalism. On the West Coast, it’s a tourist attraction. And in the South, football is religion, and Saturday is the holy day.”

“To be able to command strong-willed people,” he said, “you had to be innovative, you had to demand respect by the way you acted. And you had to adjust to rapidly changing situations.”

Casem said the key to winning at the Alcorn was no different than that at Southern Cal or Notre Dame. “Hard work, discipline, integrity, fundamentals and more hard work,” Casem said. “We didn’t take any short cuts at Alcorn.”

“To me, Alcorn was the perfect place to be a football coach,” Casem said. “It was a great place to train an athlete because you didn’t have all the distractions you had other places. Our players focused on football. You had their attention.”

On His Watch (as Athletic Director)

Casem witnessed these successful athletic programs: 
Basketball
While he was A.D. at Alcorn in 1979, the Braves became the first historically black college to win an NIT basketball game when coach Davey Whitney’s squad beat Mississippi State 80-78.
A year later, Alcorn was the first historically black college to win an NCAA tournament game; they defeated South Alabama 70-62.
Baseball
At Southern, the Jaguars became the first HBCU to win an NCAA baseball tournament game when coach Roger Cador’s team beat No. 2 Cal State Fullerton 1-0 in 1987.
Basketball
In men’s basketball, coach Ben Jobe led the No. 13 seed Jaguars to a 93-78 upset of No. 4 seed Georgia Tech in the NCAA tournament, .

“A Call to Action”

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In 1947, Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson, president of Howard University, stood before a House Labor Department Federal Appropriations subcommittee and extolled the fact that 17 Land-Grant Colleges were being underfunded with small allotments which were crippling the predominately black colleges and universities in their efforts to grow and prepare graduates for professional roles in the Southern states.
He further stated that “the inadequacy of educational opportunity afforded by State-supported schools in 17 Southern States which maintained separate land grant colleges for white and colored students,” was a national scandal and, “this inadequacy is due directly to the inequitable distribution of both Federal and State funds.”
Dr. Johnson told the group (headed by Frank B. Keefe of Wisconsin), that “Howard University is the only colored institution with a first class law school and the only one that offers opportunity comparable to first class State universities like Wisconsin’s or North Carolina’s.”

He revealed that although colored institutions served 10,000 students at the time, they received less than $5,000,000 – less than the budget of the University of Louisiana (now Louisiana State University) alone.
In addition, practically all of the colored institutions had to concentrate on undergraduate education, teacher training and agriculture because they could not seriously offer or give education on the graduate level.
(-Baltimore Afro-American, 1947)

nellums,charlie.north.carolina.centralIn 2011, Dr. Charlie Nelms (past president, North Carolina Central University) published “A Call to Action”, a policy directive intended to spur a national dialogue concerning the revitalization of the historically black colleges and universities as an important sector of American higher education.
Ironically, the same issues that were addressed 67 years ago are still prevalent today.

What is different these days are the apathetic views taken by some African Americans questioning the value of supporting these Black colleges and universities. From noted authors to administrators to avid supporters, there is a real concern that unless we can fire up enough dialogue and support in the Black communities, some of our HBCUs are headed for extinction.

 

 

humphries,frederick,dr..2In a speech by Dr. Frederick Humphries, Florida A&M’s past president, on FAMU’s present dilemma (and it speaks to ALL of HBCUs):
    “It is critical that all persons in leadership must have a fundamental appreciation and respect for our history… the special role that FAMU plays and the unique dynamics that it must navigate to be successful in a landscape that does not want FAMU to succeed and is actively seeking to starve the University to death.
    One cannot adopt a model that is successful at a PWI (Predominately White Institution) and just drop that model into FAMU and expect it to work without SIGNIFICANT amounts of nuance and finesse.
    Any notion of I’m from a PWI, I get it, the current and former University community doesn’t is arrogant, inherently naïve and will fail; the stakes are too high to not be thoughtful in every action that FAMU administrators/employees take. As a community we must make our views about decisions at FAMU visible but respectfully – the world is watching and we must consistently demonstrate that we are serious, thoughtful and deliberate in everything that  we do. The Alumni must support these Universities that provided them with tools to be successful in life.”

 

harvey,william, dr.This past summer, Dr. William Harvey, Hampton University’s president who  serves as chairperson on President Obama’s Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, called out the Feds for drastically reducing financial support for HBCUs during the event.
He later stated that we must nevertheless pick up the mantle in this crusade to awaken the people to engage in reinforcing the guidelines for bringing back support of our HBCUs:

    “I believe in the relevancy of HBCUs, but believing in them doesn’t mean that we are all alike. Out of 105 HBCUs, they are not all monolithic. There are some that are doing very well, some that are doing poorly, and most of them are somewhere in the middle. It’s the same for predominantly white colleges.
    I don’t want to opine on what other HBCUs could or should do, because I only know what’s best for Hampton and what works for Hampton.
    A lot of presidents, black and white, when they are newly elected, will ask to come and spend a day with me. I talk with them very frankly about leadership, and the things that have worked for Hampton over my years as president.
    I think it’s up to every HBCU president to best determine what will work or what their vision is for that institution, and then to make it happen.
    If you look at institutions that are in trouble or have failed, it’s because they haven’t been able to bring in the resources. It takes money to build a university, and not just money, but an understanding that there are two sides to a ledger. You can’t just spend aimlessly. No matter what his or her background is, the president must have an understanding of finances and budgeting.”
    A president must have an understanding of securing resources, to retain quality faculty support and for infrastructure and     scholarships to students. In order to do that, you’ve got to bring in resources, no matter if you’re a private or public institution.”

This is not a declaration about leadership alone. Alumni supporters are very much instrumental in this mix and without them, it amounts to more futility for the future growth, student enrollment and all other extracurricular activities.
It raises a question about the consciousness of those who have made a significant impact on society as a whole…the successful businessman, entertainers, athletes and recipients of good fortune due to their affiliation with and from HBCUs. Outside philanthropies are prevalent also, as they show their generosity toward these schools.
Hopefully, we can rally around this cause and divert the attention away from the naysayers who have no investment in the future of thousands of students, teachers and athletes who want to attend a Historically Black College or University.

We know you have an opinion…weigh in…be a part of the groundswell of supporters!

(See more at Black College Sports History & Legends …www.ehbcsports.com)

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