The quest for a winning coach

Coach Pata rallying up his players.
Photo credit: Sydne Vigille

With former Florida A&M University football Head Coach Alex Wood resigning from his position on Nov. 20, FAMU once again finds themselves on the coaching carousel looking for someone to fill the void of head coach.

Wood, who was in the final year of his contract, was believed to be on the hot seat. Wood compiled a disappointing 8-25 record over three seasons finishing 3-8 this year which left the Rattlers at 10th in the final MEAC conference standings.

This past November, WCTV Eyewitness News reported possible replacements for the vacancy led by current Godby High School’s Head Coach Corey Fuller, a hometown product and graduate of Florida State university. Fuller, who was named Interim Head Coach of the Rattlers in 2014, is a former second round NFL draft pick who played 10 seasons in the league.

Retired NFL quarterback and current Lincoln High School’s Head Coach Quinn Gray, a former FAMU football standout, and Joker Phillips, a former University of Florida receivers coach, were also named as finalists in the 2014 search.

FAMU understands that there are parameters that have to be in place to attract a new coach.

"We have to make sure the contract we offer is competitive, to get a competitive coach," said Vaughn Wilson, Assistant Athletic Director and head of sports information.

Coaches want reassurance that they will have ample time to fix a program, a multi-year contract for the next coach takes a big step in that direction.

Offensive line coach Edwin Pata was named interim head coach by current Athletic Director Milton Overton. Pata, who has been around the program since 2008 joined the staff initially as a tight ends coach, has witnessed first-hand the highs and lows of the program.

Current players took their voice of opinion on who they thought should be the next head coach to social media. Creating a Twitter trending topic hashtag of "#NoOneButCoachPata" tallying over 100 retweets and favorites.

Tevin Spells a former team captain tweeted "I must say this is the best move FAMU ever made making Coach Pata interim head coach. He really cares about the players and still coaches us hard. He is the swag we need in the office please keep him as our head coach."

According to the Twitter posts, the support from the players is genuine, his passion to connect with the players confirm that. “It’s very encouraging to see their support, they are unified and holding each other accountable.” said Pata

When asked if he implemented any new strategies since taking over Pata responded "I'm in the first stage of a four-stage process of creating a standard of excellence, I'm interested in the development of our men."

Whomever the Rattlers decide to bring in will inherit a team trending in the right direction, the Rattlers lost four games under a seven-point margin and a roster that had five All MEAC conference players.

During his tenure, Wood did a superb job of instilling the importance of education in his players. It was recently announced that 18 FAMU players this year were selected to the All- MEAC Academic team, a feat that the team has not come close to in years.

Wood has left a solid academic foundation for the next coach to inherit.

"We are looking for a coach to continue the academic success here,” said Wilson. “And someone who can translate that to wins on the field,"

The team is a couple of costly mistakes away from a winning season. They have good players, but with the right coach, this program could turn around in the future.