“There's a lot of the fan base, and a lot of folks that stop contributing because they wanted me out,” former UAPB head football coach Monte Coleman said. “I'm out now, so I hope the fans that backed off will step up to the plate. It's not about the coach, it's about the young men. We as coaches did the best we could in choosing them. The young men definitely deserve it.”
Since learning Monday morning that his contract as head football coach at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff wouldn’t be renewed after it expires in December, Monte Coleman said that it “has been a tough process.”
“It was an enjoyable 10 years as head coach,” Coleman said. “I’ve made a lot of friends, and hopefully I’ve been able to have a positive effect on a lot of men. It’s a sad deal, but life goes on, and I’m just expecting the lord to open another door.”
In all, Coleman was a coach on the UAPB football staff for nearly 15 years. Over that time, he has coached a lot of young men, but in a brief interview he named a couple of special guys off the top of his head who he sees as staples in his coaching career.
“I had a lot of players come through,” Coleman said. “Johnny Randle was with me early on, Patrick Okeye, who is a police officer in Dallas, Pat Sanders is a financial advisor, Horton, Jared Dorn, Aaron Eugene, Willie Young, and even my son. Tashad Cherity would be the latest. There’s a whole host of guys that played for me and played well, but all of the guys I named weren’t always starters, but they were always leaders. And I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of guys that I unintentionally left off.”
UAPB Athletic Director Lonza Hardy Jr. on Tuesday was adamant that whomever they hire has to be about winning. Hardy wants a guy who’s passionate about recruiting, and someone who can motivate his coaching staff and the players in order to get the best out of them.
“Ideally, someone that, number one, comes from a winning program that wins consistently,” Hardy said. “Someone who knows about winning championships, and a coach that’s committed to our mission at the University. We need someone who is about recruiting great talent, and who’s a great motivator.”
Hardy also referenced the fact that in the past under Coleman, the Golden Lions were hampered by scholarship issues stemming from a probation mandated by the NCAA. Since then, over the past three years UAPB has gone from an allotted 33 scholarships to 61.
Not all of those are full scholarships, but the significant increase should make a difference in the product of talent on the field, he said.
“One good thing that did happen during Coleman’s tenure is we were able to almost double the amount of scholarships,” Hardy said. “Whoever replaces Coleman will be in a much better situation from the start.”
Having Arkansas ties, and being in tune with the history and tradition of UAPB football will be a plus for the coaching candidates who will interview for the job, but Hardy said that although it’s a plus, it’s not mandatory. The main thing is getting a guy in that wants to win, and who knows what it takes to win on a consistent basis.
“I think the most important thing is getting somebody in that can make a winner regardless,” Hardy said. “If they have Arkansas ties it’s a plus, but it’s not a mandate. Having Arkansas ties will be an added incentive.”
Hardy confirmed that there will be a search committee formed, but the committee isn’t complete as of yet.
“That’s actually just taking place, and the committee hasn’t done anything just yet,” Hardy said. “We’re getting in contact with people who we would like on the committee."
With the new early signing period happening in February, it’s key for players to know exactly who they’ll be playing for if they committed to the Golden Lions. Whenever the committee is formed in the very near future, they won’t have much time, as the athletic program wants to name a new head coach before Christmas break. Although, it might be a rapid process, Hardy expressed that things will be done in a correct, orderly fashion.
“With the pending signing day in February we want to identify the right candidates to decide on a coach in a timely manner,” Hardy said.
“An ideal situation is that we can name a new coach before we depart for the Christmas holidays. We would like to have someone in place by then. We will proceed quickly, but at the same time we’ll make sure we handle things correctly.”
As for Coleman’s assistant coaches, who are all still there at this point, their future with UAPB will be in the hands of a newly-hired head coach.
“One of the first things we did on Monday after the release was public was let the coaches know they are intact into we name a new coach,” Hardy said. “When the new coach gets here he’ll decide whether he wants to attain anyone or bring in new assistants. Everybody understands that, and I think we have a great group of coaches, but their future relies on the coach we hire.”
Attendance at football games has been a major issue for the Golden Lions for years now, and getting the community back in tune with the program is one of the main things Hardy aims to address with the new hire.
“Without question it’s crucial to get the local community behind the program,” Hardy said. “If the program is to be a success the community has to support it. Pine Bluff looks for their athletics to flourish. It’s crucial to get the local community behind the program, and I think the people of Pine Bluff are yearning for that opportunity.”
Hardy expressed his appreciation for Coleman and everything he was able to do for UAPB football during his tenure as an assistant and head coach.
“We want to thank Coach Coleman for almost 15 years he gave to the University, 10 as head coach,” Hardy said. “He was great for the program and did something that has never done before by winning the (SWAC) championship in 2012. He made his mark and we’ll always be appreciative of that.”
Coleman said that he’ll get to spend quality time with his family over the holidays. Also, when the time is right, he’ll look into what opportunities are out there in the business and coaching worlds. Now that the change has been made, as a message to the Golden Lions football fans, Coleman said he wants them to step up and give the kids the support they deserve.
“There’s a lot of the fan base, and a lot of folks that stop contributing because they wanted me out,” Coleman said. “I’m out now, so I hope the fans that backed off will step up to the plate. It’s not about the coach, it’s about the young men. We as coaches did the best we could in choosing them. The young men definitely deserve it.”