Troy football coach Blakeney reflects on past, future of program

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Troy University football coach Larry Blakeney speaks during Monday's Selma Quarterback Club meeting. -- Tim Reeves

As the guest speaker of Monday’s Selma Quarterback Club Meeting, Troy University head football coach Larry Blakeney reflected on the past and what the future holds for the Trojans.

Blakeney, who’s in his 22nd year as head football coach of the Trojans, is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and is one of only two coaches to transition a program from Division II to Division I-AA on up to Division I, currently known as the Football Bowl Subdivision, and Blakeney said he’s seen a lot of ups during the transition process.

“It’s been a pretty good ride. We made the transition to I-AA pretty easily and wound up going to the semifinals in the playoffs our first year in it,” Blakeney said. “Had some great players and rode that into the late 90s when our people decided to move to the highest level.”

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One of the unique things for the Trojans, Blakeney said, is that they did both transitions without a conference, as Troy was an independent for both moves, which was easy to do for the move to I-AA, but difficult for the move to Division I due to scheduling.

But Blakeney added, as the Trojans joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2004, they accomplished some unprecedented success.

“We went to a bowl in 2004 and then won the league from 2006 to 2010. So we’ve had a measure of success. We’ve been to five bowls. There’s a lot of teams that have been Division I for a long time and haven’t been to five bowls,” Blakeney said. “There have been some people that have caught up with us a little bit, but it’s all about investment in football. We’ve got to continue to build and grow facilities. Troy’s a great place, a great school. If we show Division I athletes that we’re going to continue to be a high-quality program by what’s built, we’ve got a chance to continue that success.”

Blakeney added the state of the Sun Belt is very good despite the unsettled landscape that is college football during recent realignment.

Even when the conference lost Florida International and North Texas to Conference USA, Blakeney added the conference was able to replace them with strong programs in Texas State and Georgia State.

With new facilities in the works, including a planned facility in the north endzone of Veterans Memorial Stadium, Blakeney said Troy has a bright future if it stays committed to football.

“The Sun Belt is here to stay. The conference has been able to stand up pretty well with the other non-AQ (automatic qualifier) conferences, and is competitive week in and week out,” Blakeney said. “If we do the things [we need to], and I think we will. We hired a new AD (athletic director), John Hartwell from Ole Miss. He’s a very progressive guy and got some good experiences. Our Chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. and our board of trustees want all these things. Troy is a conservative institution and not always fast to do things, but they always seem to get things done. So I’m sure the things that I mentioned will take place and we’ll add onto the stadium and things like that.”