Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.
Winston-Salem State has hired Robert Massey as its full-time head football coach. He had been the interim head coach since May of 2019, but won’t have that label anymore.
After a national search with close to 40 applicants, Athletics Director Etienne Thomas and Chancellor Elwood Robinson decided to stay with Massey despite his 7-12 record in the two seasons he has been the head coach.
“I’m humbled to be in this position and I’m grateful,” Massey said in the news conference announcing the choice to be the 10th head football coach in the storied history of the school. “I don’t take this opportunity lightly and we are going to work hard to get us back to where we belong.”
The school’s board of trustees approved the decision at around 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
Massey guided the program through a COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when there was no football season. Instead, he kept the team together and they accumulated a 3.0 grade point average during the academic year.
The Rams have a long way to go to be contenders in the CIAA, but by keeping Massey they are giving him and his young staff another chance. Massey said he loves that he has young assistant coaches such as Marvin Bohannon, Kam Smith, Markus McElveen, Corey Stewart and Malcolm Gaither. Bohannon, Smith and Stewart are all WSSU graduates and McElveen played for Massey when they were both at Shaw.
Massey broke down twice during his news conference, the first time after introducing his young assistant coaches. He said they stuck by him during the entire process.
“I love you guys — and I know I don’t say it enough — but you mean the world to me and I’m ready to fight with you guys as we build this thing,” Massey said.
The other time Massey broke down was when he talked about starting a scholarship in his mother’s name, Annie Belle Massey, that would benefit a student at WSSU and also a football player with two separate scholarships. He has already donated $10,000 of his pay to get the scholarships rolling.
“This is something that I’m very proud about because she’s the one that told me when I was in college (N.C. Central) I needed to get a degree,” Massey said, fighting back tears. “And that’s something I’m adamant about when I recruit players now. Football is important, but getting that degree sets you up for life.”
Thomas praised Massey at the end of last season, and said she would give him ample opportunity to interview for the job.
After Massey, 55, replaced Kienus Boulware, who was fired in May of 2019, the Rams went 4-6. Massey went 3-6 last season and in his two seasons went 7-12, but the Rams haven’t been factors in the CIAA’s Southern Division since 2016.
In his three stops as a head coach at Livingstone, Shaw and WSSU, Massey, a former player in the NFL, has compiled a 23-56 record.
Robinson said there was plenty that stuck out for him during the interview process with Massey.
“One of the lowest points we had in the season was after our loss to Chowan (73-7), but he stood tall,” Robinson said. “We had a conversation and he told me we would get better and do the right thing. And also his sense of values and how he treats his players.
“If I had a son that was interested in football, I would want him to play for Robert Massey.”
One thing that will have to change if WSSU is serious about contending in the CIAA is that it needs to have more than just 22 scholarships. That’s a far cry from the maximum of 36 allowed in Division II.
Earlier this week, Thomas talked about trying to get to 30 scholarships in football.
Bowie State, the CIAA champion, and Fayetteville State, the Southern Division champion the past four seasons, are winning without 36 scholarships. The Bulldogs have around 18 scholarships, according to Clyde Doughty, Jr., the athletics director at Bowie State.
When WSSU was in the Division II championship game in 2012 Coach Connell Maynor had 29 scholarships as they went a school-best 14-1. Since then, the scholarships have dwindled for football and that has resulted in the program becoming a middle-of-the pack team in the CIAA.
“It’s about getting more resources, and we have to work with the university to partner for more scholarships,” Thomas said. “We would like to get toward 30 and then work toward the maximum (of 36 for Division II) but we know that’s going to take some work.”
Robinson said he’s determined to increase the scholarship dollars. Thomas said part of her plan is also to work with corporate sponsors to help raise revenue.
“To have a successful program you have to have the right amount of resources,” Robinson said. “What AD Thomas and I have done is look not only at football but at all our sports as to how to get additional resources. As you know athletics is mainly funded by student fees and beyond that we have to fund raise.”
Thomas said: “We realize that corporations don’t want their sponsorship money going toward scholarships, but if we can move money around from other areas to gain more scholarship dollars we will certainly look at doing that.”
According to Thomas, who was hired in January of 2020 and has only been through one football season, there were close to 40 applicants for the vacant job.
“We thought the search went smooth and there was interest from all over the country,” Thomas said.
Massey will get a four-year contract worth $90,000 a year. The last full-time coach, Boulware, was getting $130,000 a year, but Thomas said that extra money would go toward another full-time assistant coach.
For the two and half years that Massey was the interim, he was making around $62,000 a year. He was the defensive coordinator under Boulware, but was elevated to head coach on an interim basis in the spring of 2019.
Massey came to WSSU in 2016 as a defensive backs coach. That’s the last time WSSU won the CIAA championship.
Darryl Perkins, who lives in Rural Hall, has been a Horn’s member for several years. The Horn’s Club is one of the main fund-raising clubs for WSSU athletics. Perkins is a 1976 graduate of WSSU and is an active alum.
“We need resources in the worst way,” Perkins said about the hiring of Massey as the permanent coach. “We can be unhappy and wait until the wheels fall off or we can roll up our sleeves and encourage more giving or more fundraising. I would like to be 12-0 like everyone else….But this is my university, but I’m not disgruntled. It’s my job as an alum to try and do all that I can to help the university succeed on the football field.”