2008 Livingstone Football: Massie expects success this season
By Nick Bowton
The pre-programmed response around Livingstone this season will have something to do with not wanting to think about 0-10, not wanting to rehash the past.
But, because of its past, Livingstone finds itself in this sort of present: Nobody outside of the Blue Bears’ locker room expects a winning team.
After a winless 2007 season and a six-season stretch in which it won 10 games, Livingstone opens another season Saturday when it plays Concordia in the Greenville HBCU Classic. Second-year coach Lamonte Massie, half-jokingly, said earlier this week that Concordia probably won’t be too worried about the Blue Bears.
“They’re coming off a big win against Bethel,” Massie said. “They’re probably figuring, hey, we’re just going to be the same old Livingstone.”
Therein lies the problem Massie faces.
It’s a problem Massie recognizes and one he’s been trying to address since he got here in January 2007. He’s maintained all along that he has a plan ó and seems to think the plan actually is taking shape.
So what, exactly, is the plan?
“The plan is to surround ourselves with very successful-minded people,” Massie said. “Young men that want to have a great work ethic, young men that believe that Livingstone is a great opportunity for them.
“Livingstone is going forward. The naysayers will look back and say, ‘Oh, in 2007 you guys went 0-10.’ Yeah, that’s fine. I do recall that happening. But our whole mentality is about positivity, about looking forward, about turning this thing around.”
Another aspect of Massie’s plan has been building a program instead of trying to throw together a team that can win immediately.
That means recruiting freshmen out of high school instead of loading his roster with junior-college transfers. This season, Livingstone has 38 freshmen, more than half of them from North Carolina.
Because Livingstone doesn’t have enough recent success to lure top-notch recruits, Massie has to get the most out of what recruits he does land.
“We can’t win until we get athletes, and we can’t get athletes until we win,” he said. “So I have to take the young men that we have and make them better athletes.”
Massie believes he’s done that, too, as the Blue Bears had their first full offseason with their new weight room. The facility opened in October 2007, midway through last season.
The weight room will help remold Livingstone physically, but Massie’s biggest challenge might be remolding this team mentally. One analogy Massie likes to use is comparing the Livingstone program to the ropes kids used to have to climb in physical education class.
The rope has a knot at the bottom and runs all the way to an I beam at the ceiling. Kids would have to climb the rope and touch the beam at the top, and many would then slide back down.
“The thing I ask my guys to do, I want you to climb to the top of the rope, but I want you to wrap your legs around it, hold on and hold on tight,” Massie said. “I don’t want you to slide all the way down and be the old Livingstone.
“The old Livingstone was the knot at the end of the rope. You could hang there all day, but you never ascended to the top.”
If those types of messages get through to his players, and the weight room indeed has the Blue Bears bigger and stronger, then Massie should be able to field a team that’s better in 2008 than it was in ’07.
But positive thinking and physicality alone can’t trump these numbers: 0-10. Massie knows only one thing will change the status of his program in the eyes of others.
“People only really look at the end results when it comes to athletics,” he said. “You can have these great recruiting classes, but if it doesn’t translate into wins, it’s a moot point. Winning quiets a lot of things. Winning solidifies your program. Of course, we’re talking about student-athletes and their education, all things that are very important.
“But when you’re talking about the sport, you have got to win. If you don’t win, all of that stuff is irrelevant.”