Fielding a dream

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Dr. Julius Jenkins had a dream of seeing his green and gold Yellow Jackets not only compete in basketball, baseball and softball – but to compete in the sport that draws a majority of attention in the state of Alabama.

Jenkins wanted Concordia to become a football school.

But that’s according to the college’s Athletic Director Anthony Robinson, who was charged with the task of turning Jenkins dream into a reality.

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“It was a vision of our president, I guess roughly from six to seven years ago,” said Robinson. “He had a vision of starting football here at Concordia under his Presidency”

Julius Jones, president of Concordia College played football during his school days and realized the Alabama was a gridiron-rich state.

Starting a program at Concordia in Selma marked the first time the collegiate football had ever been in Dallas County.

The first thing to do was to find funding for the infantile program

“Seeking funding to finance a football team was probably one of the key factors in making a decision in moving forward with it,” said Robinson. “Obviously the Lord blessed it and we were able to get the necessary funds and the necessary information that we needed to help us. So here we are.”

According to Robinson, marketing the first year program wasn’t as hard as anticipated.

“We hoped that the city would embrace the idea of having collegiate football in the city of Selma,” said Robinson. “So far they have done just that.”

Robinson also had to hire coaches. After conducting a search, he found the pair he wanted at George Washington Carver High School in Birmingham. Timothy Perry and Shepard Skanes are the two men that will sit at the helm of the Concordia College football team.

Perry will serve as the head coach for the team while Skanes will show his prowess as offensive coordinator. For Skanes, the change from the high school level to the college level wasn’t that different.

“My philosophy is that there is no adjustment,” said Skanes. “Football is football throughout the country and the X’s and O’s do not change. It’s just the attitude that you bring to the table that changes.

He still plans to confuse defenses with what he has dubbed his East Coast Offense, a balanced version of the spread offense that is run by West Coast schools such as UCLA, USC, Oregon and Utah.

Skanes also brought with him the philosophy of God first, education second and athletics third.

“The kids have bought into the philosophy because we let them know that without God, there is nothing,” said Skanes. “Then we have to get the education and use the education process to play football. Some of the kids realize that they are at Concordia and want to make the best of it.”

Along with the responsibilities during the football season, the new coaches will also share the recruiting responsibilities. So far, Perry and Skanes were able to recruit 75-100 kids over a period of four months and concluded their inaugural spring training session with 64 student-athletes on their gameday roster.

“We went everywhere recruiting,” said Robinson. “We did recruit in the Selma/Dallas County area extensively, so we do have some local talent, but the majority of the players right now are from the Birmingham/Mobile areas.”

Skanes also added that a lot of the players came from the Georgia area as well.

Perry was on the road Monday afternoon recruiting. Robinson has set the end of June as the last day to have recruiting finished, while Skanes plans to have all the Letters of Intent turned back in by May 12.

With the basics covered, Concordia College moved to set a schedule, which for Skanes was a big adjustment.

“All of your scheduling and stuff is set for you in the Birmingham schools,” said Skanes. “On the college level you have to make the phone calls and negotiate your own contracts and things like that.”

Tenatively, Concordia will face the University of West Alabama, Allen University, Millsaps College, Texas College, the University of South Alabama, Edward-Waters, Atlantic College-Charlotte and Grambling State.

“What we did was seek out schools that were starting fairly new programs and some established programs that were comparable to us in size,” said Robinson. “We didn’t have a major challenge putting our inaugural schedule in place.”

The University of South Alabama will serve as the first homecoming opponents for Concordia College.

Concordia will also play all of their home games at Selma’s Memorial Stadium.

Robinson considers the Grambling State game to be the biggest on their schedule, as it will be a road trip to New Orleans, and will be played inside the Louisiana Superdome.

“They contacted us and wanted us to come play them for their homecoming,” Robinson said. “So we negotiated a schedule.”

While Grambling State is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Concordia will play as an independent team this fall, with aspirations of joining the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics.

When they joined the NAIA, they would be in a conference with Edward-Waters College, Weber International, Southern Virginia and Allen University.

Having a schedule as competitive as the one that they have on the table right now, should make them more marketable. At least that’s what Robinson’s hope is.

“A lot of the students that we are recruiting now, are very impressed with our schedule,” said Robinson. “A lot of them are like ‘Wow!’ you are playing these guys?’ We think that it will help us out.”

Concordia just finished up their inaugural spring training session with a group of student-athletes that are predominately first year college students. The goal is to have the athletes that have been signed during the four-month signing period come in during the summer workouts and compete for slots on the green and gold’s depth chart.

“We are currently working on it and I’m not sure right now how many we have signed,” said Robinson. “We did recruit some junior college players, but we mainly went after traditional high school students.”

In their final game of the spring season, the Green Squad knocked off the White squad 14-0.

Concordia doesn’t offer athletic scholarships like most colleges, but they do offer Institutional Aide to their new recruits. The aide basically serves as a scholarship.

Now that all the work has been done to get the recruits in place, Robinson is excited about the upcoming season.

“We are tickled pink,” said Robinson. “We are looking forward to the upcoming season and to getting our feet wet in the college football waters. We realize that there will be growing pains, but we are still looking forward to it.”

Attempts to reach Concordia President Julius Jenkins at his office and at his home were made, but to no avail.