Can you imagine Pete Richardson coaching Grambling’s football team?
In the black and gold? Not in the blue and gold?
It could happen.
A prominent Grambling alumni group has reached out to Richardson about becoming the school’s next head football coach. And Richardson is considering the opportunity, although he has yet to interview for the job or discuss the position with the athletic director or coaching search committee.
“It would be difficult,” Richardson said. “Especially since I accomplished so much at the other school. To go into a rival situation, it would be a little difficult.”
Richardson has been out of coaching since being fired by Southern in December 2009 with one year left on his contract — and without ever getting to work out of an office in the fieldhouse he lobbied so long for the school to build.
The relationship between Richardson and his former employer remains frosty. He has rebuffed Southern’s inquiries to add him to its hall of fame as well as other attempts to honor him, including earlier this season when the school celebrated its 1993 SWAC and black college national champions.
“It’s a situation where you have a lot of relationships developed at Southern,” Richardson said, “but we came to a point where they wanted to go in a different direction.”
Richardson led Southern to 134 wins, 12 Bayou Classic victories (against Grambling, of course), five SWAC titles and four black college national championships in his 17 seasons — achievements second only to A.W. Mumford, whose name graces the Jaguars’ stadium and who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Richardson, who entered the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in June 2012, turned 68 this month. Despite his age, he was always known for keeping exceptional fitness. And he still has the itch — or at least the curiosity — about coaching again.
“I still have that enthusiasm as far as being able to do that,” he said. “I’ve always thought for a while (about returning to coaching), if the right opportunity came along and the individuals (in a school’s administration) were supportive, I would take a look at it.
“I wasn’t going around chasing anything.”
Grambling formed a nine-member search committee at the beginning of this month to identify candidates. Around that time, Richardson was contacted to gauge his interest.
“I got contacted by a group of alumni a couple of weeks ago,” Richardson said. “We’ve been debating back and forth as to what we’re going to do. I still haven’t had the opportunity to talk to the powers that be.”
A news release that announced the search committee said Grambling Athletic Director Aaron James did not have a timetable in mind for landing a new coach to replace Doug Williams, who was fired Sept. 11. James did not return a message seeking comment.
“I understand they’re going to try to get somebody in place fairly soon after the season is over (with the Bayou Classic on Nov. 30) to get some kind of recruiting base going,” Richardson said.
Grambling made national headlines — and likely will be sued by Jackson State — after the school’s players staged a mutiny that resulted in the ouster of interim coach George Ragsdale and refused to play Jackson State’s homecoming game last Saturday. The Tigers host Texas Southern on Saturday after ending their walkout Monday.
Facilities and upheaval aside, the school has been lousy on the football field, going 1-18 since winning the SWAC title in 2011.
“I know it’s going to be a tough situation,” Richardson said. “I still think it’s a good job. The possibilities in that program are great.”
Richardson is no stranger to the element of the Grambling story that captured the national media’s fascination last week but is common throughout the SWAC and is no surprise to veterans of black college football.
“I went through those situations,” Richardson said. “You can compete as long as you had a commitment.”
Despite his success in the 1990s, Richardson spent the last part of his Southern career in shoddy Owens Hall, which had filthy bathrooms and showers in addition to antiquated offices and did not have adequate meeting rooms for team gatherings any larger than small positional groups. Until the current fieldhouse was completed, Southern kept its equipment in one temporary building and had its weight room in another one.
Meanwhile, SU’s main practice field remains today much as it has for the past few decades: worn-out, dusty, pitted with small rocks and the occasional ant mound and with a tremendous dip from a drainage ditch in the left corner of one end zone. Lights that were promised for the facility never materialized.
“It’s a matter of getting a mature staff and getting them focused and going in the right direction,” Richardson said.
Williams on NFL Network
Williams will be featured on the NFL Network’s “NFL GameDay First” on Sunday morning.
Williams granted an interview in which he discussed Grambling’s plight with Melissa Stark for the program, which begins at 6 a.m. Sunday. Williams also will be a guest analyst for the two-hour show.