Friday, August 31, 2012

SSU: Scheduling Losses to Start a Turnaround

SAVANNAH, Georgia — On a resplendent afternoon in late August, when no college football team in the country had yet lost and no player blessed with youthful confidence expected to, the Savannah State Tigers were immersed in a spirited practice peppered by the language of positivity: “Good block.” “Nice tackle.”

Just beyond one end zone, cheerleaders rehearsed the fight song. “Our team is strong,” it went. “Victory’s our guarantee.”

This show of optimism spilled forth from a university that could justifiably claim — not that anyone would — that it had the worst Division I program since the turn of this century.

Over 11 seasons, Savannah State, the self-proclaimed University by the Sea, in a charming city distinguished by oak trees that sprout Spanish moss, has won 17 games, just five against Division I teams. It has changed coaches six times — once because of a death — and had nine athletic directors, including interims. It has been placed on N.C.A.A. probation twice and faced a pair of embarrassing lawsuits that claimed racial discrimination.


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