Coach Eric Dooley has rebuilt Prairie View A&M into SWAC title contender — •

Legendary.

Eric Dooley performed underneath Eddie Robinson at Grambling State and later coached underneath Pete Richardson at Southern College, two of the perfect to do it. He’s now evoking reminiscences of former Prairie View A&M soccer coach Billy Nicks because the resurgent Panthers search their first Southwestern Athletic Convention (SWAC) title since 2009.

“I had a possibility to play underneath a legendary coach like Eddie Robinson and be taught plenty of life classes. However I additionally had the chance to work underneath one other legend, Pete Richardson,” mentioned Dooley, whose Panthers will face Jackson State within the SWAC championship on Saturday.

“I can by no means be in the identical sentence with these males,” Dooley mentioned of his mentors. “However simply a number of the issues they did, I’m making use of at Prairie View. I needed to alter the tradition at PV. The tradition that exists inside my teaching philosophy, to let these guys know that whenever you’ve bought grown males telling them that you simply love them, that’s an enormous distinction. Robust love. I’m going to teach you up on the sector, however I’m additionally going to be that prolonged mother or father away from house.”

4 seasons in, Dooley is reversing the fortunes of a program that has skilled the best of highs and lowest of lows.

Below Nicks, a member of the Faculty Soccer Corridor of Fame, the Panthers had been the dominant program within the SWAC and some of the highly effective small faculty applications in NCAA historical past. From 1952 to 1965, Prairie View A&M gained 5 Black faculty nationwide championships and 7 of 14 SWAC titles.

Sadly, following Nicks’ retirement, Prairie View A&M posted the longest dropping streak in FCS historical past — 80 consecutive losses between 1989 and 1998.

Prairie View A&M gained seven of its first eight video games this season. Although the Panthers have dropped three straight, together with a loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 20, they’re centered on this weekend’s matchup.

“What most modern followers keep in mind about PV soccer is the record-setting dropping streak,” mentioned Michael Hurd, who wrote Thursday Night time Lights: The Story of Black Excessive Faculty Soccer in Texas, and whose upcoming guide, Champions on the Hill, particulars the Nicks period at Prairie View A&M. “However Coach Nicks had the perfect program within the SWAC — finish of story.

“Contemplating the place that program has come from,” Hurd mentioned, “Coach Dooley has accomplished an awesome job of getting it again to the place it was through the Nicks days. There’s a fairly stiff problem. It’s like UCLA making an attempt to switch John Picket after profitable seven straight nationwide championships. It’s nice to see PV soccer shining and talked about in a constructive manner.”

Throughout Nicks’ period, the majority of his rosters consisted of gamers from in-state Black excessive faculties. Most of Nicks’ expertise got here from applications coached by former Prairie View A&M gamers who performed for Nicks and would ship him their finest athletes in appreciation for him securing teaching jobs for them.

Below Dooley, Prairie View A&M has liberally used the switch portal to restock its roster as an rising variety of proficient gamers are transferring to traditionally Black universities after starting their soccer careers at predominantly white establishments.

Dooley uncovered a gem in senior quarterback Jawon Move, who turned down a scholarship provide from Nick Saban at Alabama popping out of Columbus, Georgia. Move signed with Louisville, then coached by Bobby Petrino, and performed two seasons behind Heisman Trophy winner and present NFL celebrity Lamar Jackson earlier than beginning for the Cardinals. Move transferred to Towson earlier than shifting on to Prairie View A&M for his ultimate faculty season as a graduate switch.

“If you’re recruiting, you need to construct relationships,” Dooley mentioned. “Then when you construct relationships, there must be a belief issue. As soon as we bought an opportunity to attach with Jawon, simply being actual and telling him the trustworthy to God’s reality, that bought him to wish to take this chance right here. I don’t know what the recruiting pitch is at different locations, however we’re going to inform the reality. He was searching for a belief issue. He went by a lot. He needed to know: Can I belief him? We instructed him he was going to be given the chance, and he accepted the problem. We had been lucky to land him.

“If you get a man of that magnitude who’s extremely embellished to return to your program with so many stars by his identify, typically you get a man that’s conceited,” Dooley mentioned. “This man was so all the way down to earth and simply needed to work. He match proper in from day one.”

Move, who’s 6-feet-5 and 228 kilos, threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns in opposition to Alcorn State on Nov. 13, and completed the common season with 2,546 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

“Popping out of highschool, I adopted my coronary heart and made the choice to go to Louisville,” Move mentioned. “It wasn’t a simple determination. If I didn’t go to Louisville, I used to be going to Alabama. I confirmed that I might play at Louisville, however I didn’t attain my peak, for no matter cause. Issues didn’t go the way in which I anticipated. However on the finish of the day, I nonetheless bought some good movie from Louisville. And I discovered from being round Lamar, his aggressive nature. He’s a type of guys the place you’re by no means out of a recreation it doesn’t matter what the rating is.

“Once I left Louisville, I entered the switch portal. I decided fast. On the time, Towson was my most suitable choice. However after being there for the spring, it simply didn’t work out.

“PV was the perfect place for me. The college or degree of competitors didn’t matter. I simply wanted to go someplace I might be snug and play immediately. I at all times felt like I might play on the subsequent degree, even after I was at Louisville. This yr is only a reassurance for me to indicate individuals I can play.”

John Harris is a author, creator, editor and digital journalist who has labored for the Philadelphia Inquirer, St. Petersburg Occasions, Fort Value Star-Telegram and Hunt Scanlon Media. He’s co-authoring Professional Soccer Corridor of Famer Edgerrin James’ autobiography, From Gold Tooth to Gold Jacket.

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