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CIAA Football: Livingstone coach looks to the future

By David Shaw
dshaw@salisburypost.com
Eric Brown has his eyes fixed firmly on the future, not in the rearview mirror.
As interim football coach at Livingstone, he believes a foundation for the program’s successful future has already been poured.
“This is a team that if you get the opportunity to coach, you should be excited about,” Brown said after the youthful Blue Bears completed an 0-10 season. “You’ve got a bunch of people who played their butts off every week, people who fought through the adversity of a coaching change and injuries and just being young. We’ve got a roster filled with all-stars, guys with tons of accolades who just experienced something they’d never really experienced before ó losing. They’re coming back, and they don’t want to feel that way again.”

Brown, a defensive guru who replaced former coach Lamonte Massie on Sept. 21, hopes Livingstone does an about-face over the next two years and becomes a CIAA title contender. He’s one of about 70 applicants for the job that will be filled later this month.
“The position has been posted on the Livingstone and NCAA web sites,” said Athletic Director Dr. Darren J. Hamilton. “We’ll likely make an announcement around Nov. 19 and have a start date of Dec. 1. We don’t want to lose any ground recruiting.”
The deadline to apply was last Thursday. A 10-person search committee will conduct telephone and in-person interviews before narrowing the field to three finalists this week.
“I will submit my information and be just like every other candidate who wants this job,” said Brown, who inherited an 0-4 team. “I may get interviewed, I may not. It depends on what criteria they use.”
Brown appears to have the support of several current and former Livingstone players. Kevin Shelf, who scored Livingstone’s final touchdown of the season, said adjusting to Brown’s coaching style was eye-opening.
“I’m not saying he was a better coach,” Shelf indicated. “I’m just saying he made the team tougher.”
Record-setting quarterback Steven Williams ó scheduled to graduate in May ó implied the team owes Brown a thank-you card.
“He stepped in and stepped up when we needed him to,” Williams said. “He kept everything positive around here. He didn’t get rattled or let us get rattled. That was important.”

There were times when Brown probably felt like captain of the Titanic. The Blue Bears were shut out for the third straight week in his Sept. 26 debut, then folded like lawn chairs in the last five minutes of a 30-15 loss to Johnson C. Smith. Livingstone was most competitive in its Week 7 loss to Chowan ó a 42-33 setback ó before it was outscored 116-18 in the season’s final three games. His postgame comments usually focused on finishing plays and segments of the game.
“Right from the beginning, Coach Brown was more than just a coach,” freshman receiver Omar McFadden said. “He was a mentor, a teacher, someone you could turn to. He always made sure our on-field appearance ó as well as our off-field appearance ó was good. He made sure we represented Livingstone College in a positive way.”
Brown thinks the greatest challenge facing Livingstone’s next coach will be recruiting. Attracting top players to a program that’s lost 45 of its last 50 decisions and hasn’t recorded a winning season since 1998 won’t be easy.
“Me personally, I have my recruiting philosophy and recruiting plan ready to go ó if given the opportunity,” Brown said. “But whoever comes in here will have to have a plan. If you look at our roster, it’s all freshmen and sophomores. You’ve got three rising seniors next year. We had six freshman starters on defense this year.”
Facing those kind of odds, is Brown the best choice?
“He is,” Williams said. “He’s a coach who knows what he’s doing. He has all the tools Livingstone needs to turn it around.”

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