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franklin county times

Troy University coach pays visit to city

By Staff
Kim West
6-25 kim's blakeney story
The Russellville Civitans welcomed a special guest speaker for their weekly luncheon meeting at Jonathan's Steakhouse Tuesday.
Troy football coach Larry Blakeney spoke to a crowd of 50 Civitans and guests that included Russellville football coach Doug Goodwin, Circuit Court Judge Terry Dempsey, WHNT-19 sports director John Pearson, Southeastern Athletics CEO Glenn Jackson and Russellville State Farm agent Lanny Norris, a former football player at Alabama.
Troy is a former rival of North Alabama and transitioned to Division I-AA a year after Blakeney was hired in 1991. The Trojans completed their move to Division I, now known as the Football Championship Subdivision, in 2002 and won the Sun Belt Conference championship and the New Orleans Bowl in 2006 in the program's second bowl game appearance in three seasons.
"We needed a guest speaker for June 24, so I said I would get someone," said Civitans past president Cecil Langcuster, a Troy graduate and four-year letterman on the Trojans football team. "We were able to get coach Blakeney to come up and speak, and he's done a terrific job at Troy as they moved from Division II to Division I.
"Going to Troy changed my life, and I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't gone to school there. It means a lot to have someone like this as our guest speaker."
Blakeney, who attended the meeting with Troy alumni relations director Faith Ward, university development coordinator Mike Amos and close friend, Dr. Buddy Thorn, said Troy's move from Division II to Division I has benefited not only the football program but also the university.
"The smartest thing our leadership at Troy ever did was petition the NCAA to be a 1-A school and by 2001, we had completed the four-year process," said Blakeney, who trails only Penn State's Joe Paterno and FSU's Bobby Bowden as the winningest active coach at one school with a 136-68-1 record in 17 years at Troy.
"Since then our university and the football programs has gone upward and forward. Football is the crown jewel, and we're basically the public relations arm for the university."
North Alabama is currently considering a move to Division I, which Blakeney said would help the school grow.
"I think UNA should move up because the Quad-Cities is the best market for football in north Alabama," Blakeney said. "They would have to spend money but they're also going to make a lot of money – the key is the gap between what they're spending now and bringing in, and what they would spend and make as a Division I school."
Blakeney also said major college football should work on improving its image and sportsmanship.
"I'm concerned about our game right now because we're not necessarily putting our best foot forward at the highest level of college football as far as how we act on (game days)," said Blakeney, who has coached more than 30 NFL players, including New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. "We need to nurture our game, and somehow, some way, we've got to change. I think if they took a (touchdown) off the scoreboard for bad behavior, then every coach in the country would be teaching sportsmanship."
Blakeney said his coaching style focuses on prioritizing and mentoring players.
"The player is No. 1 with respect to the team, and coaches are No. 2," Blakeney said.
"I'm not a Nazi-style coach with a bullhorn yelling at players – my style is hiring good people and empowering them to mentor and coach good players."
As a new Division I team, Troy often had to schedule national powerhouses in order to fill up its schedule. The Trojans still schedule guarantee games against much bigger schools, which earns extra revenue for the program.
"When we entered Division I, we had to schedule everyone because we didn't have a conference schedule. (In 2002) we played at both Nebraska and Miami the season after they played in the national championship game." Blakeney said.
"I think we have the toughest schedule in the history of the school (with road games against LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State). But these games will also help us with recruiting and bring in extra revenue for our program."
Last season the Trojans narrowly missed their third bowl game appearance after losing to conference rival FAU for the first time.
"FAU is coached by the great one, (Howard) Schnellenberger, and if you don't believe it, just ask him," said a smiling Blakeney. "We lost to FAU last season, and we ended up having to sit at home with an 8-4 record.
"I think our biggest games this season will be the Middle Tennessee State game in August and the FAU game in October."

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