First-year Jackson State coach Harold Jackson may be 68 years old and coaching again for the first time in five years, but he has a clear view of society’s thirst for instant gratification.
When the Tigers won their first two games of the season, Jackson’s return to his alma mater where he’s also a member of the Hall of Fame, couldn’t have made for a better reunion.
“You’re a great coach at that time,” Jackson said. “But this game can turn and flip on you in a minute.”
So can a faction of a fan base that initiated an online petition nearly two weeks ago to have Jackson and Athletic Director Vivian Fuller fired in the wake of Jackson State’s 3-4 overall record and 1-3 showing in Southwestern Athletic Conference play.
The impetus for the petition — which has garnered 750 signatures — had been simmering before the events of Oct. 18 when the Tigers, who host Southern at 6 p.m. Saturday, had lost three of four games, including SWAC encounters to Grambling and Prairie View.
It reached a boiling point after JSU’s 27-23 loss for homecoming to Mississippi Valley State, a game the Tigers squandered in the final two minutes of play on Oct. 11.
Not only was it JSU’s fourth loss in its past five games, but it also marked the first loss to the Delta Devils since 1994 with the setback coming at the hands of former Tigers coach Rick Comegy.
“The way people look at it now, it’s either a win or a loss,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter how you lost or won. I can understand if you get blown away, but we’re right there. It’s a matter of a few things here or there. If we can get them taken care of, I think we’ll be fine.
“There’s a lot of folks out there that know a lot about football and some that don’t know a lot and those are the ones you kind of turn off,” Jackson said. “I hear folks out there talking, but it doesn’t bother me. I know what we need to do and what we have to do to get this program on the right track again.”
Because of his extensive professional playing career Jackson, who coached for 10 years in the NFL and 10 at the college level, was brought in to replace Comegy following an 8-4 season.
The Tigers were 55-35 in eight seasons under Comegy and completed back-to-back trips to the SWAC Championship game that included a 34-27 double-overtime loss to Southern in last year’s title game.
Comegy was fired 11 days later after the title-game loss with JSU hiring Jackson, whose collegiate head coaching experience included stints at Benedict and Virginia Union.
“A lot of people say they bleed blue and white,” Jackson said. “I also do the same thing. This is where I got my start and they gave me the opportunity to be successful in life. This is one of the things I’ve tried to pay back to the school because of these young guys. It takes time when you have a new coaching staff and system. It takes a lot to get that done.”
JSU opened with wins over Florida A&M (22-17) and Virginia-Lynchburg (59-0) before teetering over the course of its next five games.
The Tigers closed the gap of their game in the fourth quarter with Grambling to 33-28 with 5:31 left before swapping touchdowns and eventually falling by five points.
Moreover, three of JSU’s four losses have come at home with three of those teams being previously winless in league play.
Jackson pointed toward turnovers and an inordinate number of penalties that contributed to his team’s demise in the loss to Mississippi Valley.
The Tigers are sixth in the league in penalty yards per game (72.3) but against Valley was flagged 14 times for 161 yards, Jackson said. They’ve also allowed 101 points off of turnovers or 14 a game.
Jackson said last week’s bye couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only did the Tigers have time to get some of their players healthy, but mid-term exams also consumed a lot of their time and diverted it away from some of the tumult surrounding the program.
“When we got in this thing we didn’t expect to be where we are now,” said Jackson, who under contract for two more years. “We thought we’d be at least 6-1. You can’t turn the ball over and have too many penalties. Those are things that are going to get you beat. The kids still feel like they’ve got a chance. Last year they were 8-4 and we’re 3-4 right now. We need to win out.”