In the spirit of National Black History Month, Soldiers To Sidelines (STS) shares a brief summary of several military veterans with significant legacies through coaching, athletic administration, and sport communications. The seminal reference for black college football is Black College Football (1892–1992), authored by United States Air Force veteran Michael Hurd, to include service in Vietnam. The compelling book describes the one-hundred-year history of Black College Football to include coaches, players, and key individuals.

Marino Casem

Marino Casem
Nicknamed, “Godfather of the Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC)”, United States Army veteran Marino Casem built a winning tradition as Alcorn State University football coach for twenty-two years from 1964-1985.  Casem’s list of accomplishments includes seven SWAC titles, four Black National Championships, six-time National Black Coach of the Year and sent over sixty-players into professional football. In addition to his coaching excellence, Casem also served as the Athletic Director at both Alcorn State University and Southern University. Inductions include Alcorn State University Hall of Fame, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, SWAC Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame.

John Merritt

John Merritt
United States Navy veteran, John Merritt, became head coach for Jackson State University at the age of 26 in 1952 and remained an icon on the sidelines until his passing in 1983. Nicknamed “Big John,” Coach Merritt was head football coach for over thirty years, from 1952 to 1962 at Jackson State University and from 1963 to 1983 at Tennessee State University. Merrit led Jackson State University to back-to-back appearances in the Orange Blossom Classic in 1961 and 1962 before being hired by Tennessee State University.  His success at Tennessee State University includes four undefeated seasons, eight Black College National Championships, and 1982 NCAA Division 1-AA semi-finalists. Merritt is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Coach ‘Big John’ Merritt’s legacy lives on and is celebrated each year with the John Merritt Classic.

Collie J. Nicholson

Collie Nicholson
In addition to the black military veterans impacting generations of players and communities as football coaches and athletic directors, United States Marine Corps veteran Collie J. Nicholson was instrumental in building the brand of the Grambling State University football team and its marching band. After serving as a World War II combat correspondent from 1943–46 in the Central Pacific, Nicholson began his thirty-plus-year career as the sports information director at Grambling State University and worked with the great football coach legend, Eddie Robison. His marketing genius helped Grambling State University football and marching band programs gain national and global recognition. Nicholson’s efforts included Grambling State University’s participation in the Whitney Young Classic in New York and the Bayou Classic in New Orleans. Recognition followed his success, and Nicholson received the Black Sports Information Directors of CoSIDA American Trailblazers Award. Hall of Fame inductions include Louisiana Sports, Grambling State University, and SWAC.

Links for Reference