What Happened to Brian Jenkins?

The strange journey from being the nation’s best HBCU football coach to one of its most scrutinized.

The strange journey from being the nation’s best HBCU football coach to one of its most scrutinized.

Courtesy: Mickey Welsh (Montgomery Advertiser)

Maybe Brian Jenkins’ record as a Division I HBCU football coach buys him more time. But if the football dynasty he built at Bethune-Cookman means Alabama State keeps him for one or two more years, then what should the team’s record and his off-the-field issues mean?

In five years at BCU, Jenkins lost a total of six games to Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents. In two years with the Hornets, he’s lost seven in-conference contests. In Daytona Beach, Jenkins never won fewer than eight games. In Montgomery, he’s never won more than six games and is on track for a repeat of last year’s 6–5 campaign.

The Hornets got their second win of the season last weekend over Mississippi Valley State, in a 50–24 dismantling of the visiting Delta Devils. But Jenkins was suspended for the big home win, thanks to an NCAA violation for improper contact with high school athletes in 2015. From AL.com:

Jenkins says the violation “was an honest mistake by one of the assistant coaches.” He says he reported the violation to athletic director Melvin Hines and the compliance office as soon as he learned about it.

How did it all go away so quickly? Jenkins was a guy under consideration for mid-major BCS gigs at the height of his Wildcat run. He was a coach with multiple playoff appearances, Coach of the Year accolades, and the emerging model of the new HBCU college football coach — maybe not a lifer, but certainly in the mold of what black colleges needed to break through as mid-major brands.

And then he leaves Bethune-Cookman University for Alabama State, a move many thought to be less-than a lateral move, and certainly not the ideal positioning for the BCS job most of us thought he was going to one day land.

Then the allegations come out. Improper benefits to players, federal lawsuits for assistant coaches being denied pay, practice time violations, threatening players.

It’s hard to say if the struggles, the NCAA violations and the personal allegations are more a cumulative set of circumstances for a take-no-mess coach, or a fiery personality that burns beyond motivation, but into intimidation? The Hornets on-field struggles — a period of growing pains for a new recruitment cycle and new systems of play; or a sign of a coaching mismatch?

Either way, the SWAC is better off with a strong Hornets program, and HBCU football would be better off with a Brian Jenkins reclamation project. And hopefully, those two needs improve simultaneously, and quickly.