Livingstone hires new football coach
By Nick Bowton
Livingstone went fairly high profile with its last head football coach.
Robert Massey played in the NFL, was a Pro Bowl defensive back and starred in college at another CIAA school, North Carolina Central.
This time the Blue Bears went with what they thought was a better fit, a coach who knew what he was getting into at a college with limited resources. After reviewing 40 applications and interviewing four candidates, they found their man in Lamont Massie.
“I’ve never had much resources,” said Massie, who built a program from scratch and spent the past six seasons at Edward Waters in Jacksonville, Fla. “I don’t know what to do having a football field on campus. It’s probably gonna drive me crazy looking out the window and there’s a football field. Before we had to drive across town to a field.
“When you’re building a program, it’s gonna start with people. It’s not even about facilities. If the people, the young men and the coaches, have a spirit of wanting to be successful, then the other stuff is irrelevant to a point.”
As Massie spoke those words, Livingstone athletics director Cliff Huff nodded his head in agreement.
The Blue Bears haven’t had much success this decade, and one easy reason to list is resources. Livingstone doesn’t have a state-of-the-art weight room, doesn’t have a gloriously green field and doesn’t have a full Division II allotment of scholarships.
Huff doesn’t deny those facts. He wanted a coach that won’t use them as excuses, either.
“We liked the fact that he had been in a situation similar to Livingstone, limited resources,” Huff said. “I think he was just a good fit because he had come into a situation where there was no program and built it from the ground up. That’s very important. We don’t make any apologies because we’re constantly working every day to improve our conditions as far as resources.
“So we really need someone that can really understand our situation, our plight, and will come in and roll his sleeves up and be willing to work with what we have to offer.”
Massie sounded convincing enough that he’s willing to face that challenge — and confident enough that he’ll succeed.
A distinguished military graduate from the Tuskegee U.S. Army ROTC program, Massie exuded discipline in his first public appearance as coach. His main point of emphasis? Academics.
“Our prime directive is to graduate 100 percent of our student-athletes and win a national championship on the field,” said Massie, who’s still in the process of compiling a staff. “The most important thing to me is that we get the academics squared away. If you got a guy that goes to class every day and he loves getting an education, he’ll lift weights and run up and down the track and do all those things athletically because that’s what he likes to do.
“But when they love to get an education, that’s beyond half the battle.”
Massie knows that first-hand. During his fourth season at Edward Waters, the team went 8-3 and won the South Eastern Atlantic Conference. That same season 19 of Massie’s 88 players had GPAs of 3.0 of higher, a feat he termed “phenomenal.”
Still, turning the Blue Bears into a team full of 3.0 students doesn’t automatically mean turning around the 1-9 record they had last season. Or the 10-40 record the past five seasons.
Massie, however, seems to have a plan for the football part, too.
While some D-II programs load their rosters with junior college and D-I transfers, Massie said Livingstone will try to have a roster of about 75 percent student-athletes right out of high school.
On top of that, he said Livingstone will make Rowan County its primary recruiting area. Then the Blue Bears will recruit both North and South Carolina heavily. Then it’s on to Florida, Georgia and Virginia.
As for the actual gameplan, the Blue Bears will run an “East Coast” offense. Massie said they’ll run multiple formations and speed option “if we have that type of quarterback.” Defensively, Livingstone will go with a 50-under and a 4-3 and mix things up with zone blitzes.
The best part, though, is special teams.
“We go after people,” Massie said. “At Edward Waters College, we were the only team — we did our research — but we were the only team in America that ever had some type of block in 11 games. (Virginia Tech coach) Frank Beamer didn’t even have that. I got one on him.
“But, no, we used some of his stuff, and that’s probably why we were so successful.”
Massie hopes that success transfers to Livingstone.
He was 28-34 in six seasons at Edward Waters — not a great record, but not bad for a fledgling program. His next challenge is reviving a Livingstone football program that’s been around since 1892.
“There are some very successful programs out there that don’t have a lot,” Massie said. “What we’re gonna do is come up with a plan to make sure we get the right type of young men that want to come here to get an education. If he has the desire to get an education, the football will fall into place. I can take an average guy and make him good. I can take a good guy and make him really good or even great.
“It’ll come to people. Once we get the right people and I provide the proper leadership as a head coach and my staff does as mentors, we’ll be on track extremely soon.”
Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or firstname.lastname@example.org.