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Sunday, November 30, 2003
Updated: December 1, 12:58 PM ET
AD 'optimistic' Croom will accept offer

Associated Press

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Green Bay Packers assistant coach Sylvester Croom has an offer to become the next football coach at Mississippi State, athletic director Larry Templeton said Sunday.

If Croom takes the job, he'll become the first black head football coach in Southeastern Conference history.

"I think you all know me well enough to know how optimistic I get. I think this is it," Templeton said.

Croom visited the campus and met with Templeton for about five hours Sunday, two days after Templeton and university president Charles Lee went to Green Bay to meet with him.

Templeton spoke to reporters at Bryan Field airport moments after Croom boarded a university plane back to Wisconsin.

Templeton said he expected to hear back from Croom by Sunday night or Monday morning.

"I think we answered all the questions that he has," Templeton said. "We're certainly comfortable in having all our questions answered."

Croom did not speak to reporters before boarding the plane.

Mississippi State is looking for a replacement for Jackie Sherrill, who retired after the season.

The Bulldogs completed a 2-10 season, their third straight last-place finish in the SEC West, by losing to Mississippi 31-0 on Thursday. They are 8-27 over the last three seasons with just three SEC victories.

Croom, like Sherrill, played for Bear Bryant at Alabama. He was an All-American center in the early 1970s and worked as an assistant for the Crimson Tide from 1977-86.

He has never been a head coach at any level, but came close to landing the Alabama job earlier this year after Mike Price was abruptly dismissed in May.

The Crimson Tide were criticized by some, including civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, for hiring Mike Shula, who is white, over Croom, who has more experience.

Every other BCS conference as had at least one black head coach, but the shortcoming is not exclusive to the SEC. There were only four black head football coaches among 117 Division I-A football schools this season.

The SEC has been trying to help its members be more inclusive in the hiring process by providing lists of potential black head coaching candidates to its athletic directors.

Croom, 49, has been an assistant coach with five NFL teams since 1986. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., native has been running backs coach for the Packers since 2001.