Unlike some of his NFL counterparts who’ve swaggered into the HBCU coaching ranks, Eddie George has gone about his work in a more cerebral fashion.
But on Monday, the Tennessee State coach did chime in on the recent controversy involving Bethune-Cookman coach Ed Reed and comments the Pro Football Hall of Famer made about HBCUs and the school that now employs him.
“And you know, it’s frustrating. You know, he didn’t understand exactly what he was getting himself into, George said on the Rise & Grind podcast. “And when you get under the hood and you really see what’s going on, and you do see the mold in the apartments, you see the mold in the dorm rooms, you see the facilities, the locker room is not the best.
“It’s not clean. It’s all those things. But guess what? That’s why you’re there and I choose to do it through action. You know, I choose to do it through you know, hey, let me roll up my sleeves and get in front of these people. Corporations, the (school) president, you know, the politicians and say basically what are we doing here?”
George, who will be entering his third season as coach at TSU this fall, explained that he wanted to help devise a plan to move the university forward to improve the student-athlete experience from dormitories to the athletic facilities.
“Here it is 2023 and it looks like these buildings are still in the 1950s,” said George. “It has the same mold on it when I was there because we actually — the Tennessee Titans — we stayed on campus (for training camp) at Tennessee State at some of those dorms. So it’s not a place where you know, you can take great pride in because there’s no plan to move forward. And if this is the problem, then what is the plan to make it better?”
In late 2021, the school unveiled its new weight room that would help the football team develop into a contender nationally in the Ohio Valley Conference and among the best in the FCS. Plans are also underway to add a football operations center, said George.
George, whose son Eriq George, committed to Tennessee State, explained that he is motivated to “make this work” and provide an on-campus quality of life that student-athletes deserve.
“I’ve got to see that change happen. So it’s much bigger than just football. It’s just providing a quality of life that these students absolutely deserve,” he said. “You know, getting their Pell grant money on time. You know, making sure that they’re well fed. All these things have to change, you know, and the football games are one thing, but the quality of life and the experience that the education that this provides for our students for years to come is much more important.”
The former Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State also said the transformation of Tennessee State can be accelerated if the school is able to secure hundreds of millions it is owed by the state in funding.
A report by the Office of Legislative Budget Analysis showed Tennessee may have underfunded TSU for decades. The report said the state may owe the school between $151 million to $544 million in land-grant funding.
Gov. Bill Lee said he wanted to give $250 million to TSU to “improve the physical infrastructure” of the school.
“That’s something that can be a huge shot in the arm for our institution. And we have to be responsible enough to then take that money and put it towards infrastructure,” said George. “Put it toward a robust endowment that can continue to build to grow and set up other funds that going to deal with the maintenance and the everyday use for our student-athletes and bring in the talent and the teachers where we’re well staffed. So there is an opportunity there for Tennessee State.”