Former NBA and University of Las Vegas star Reggie Theus last week became the latest big name Black athletic personality to take over an HBCU program. Theus agreed to become both the athletic director and head basketball coach at Bethune-Cookman University, with the appointment reportedly taking effect this week. He replaces Ryan Ridder as basketball
But unlike the recent hirings of Deion Sanders at Jackson State and Eddie George at Tennessee State, Theus has also assumed control over the school’s entire athletic department. He will oversee football, baseball, cross country. golf, tennis, track and field for both men’s and women’s teams, as well as women’s volleyball, bowling and basketball. Most importantly, he’ll also be making a push for fundraising, Bethune-Cookman recently became a new member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).
Theus was a two-time NBA All-Star as well as an All-American in college and brings tremendous credibility and expanded visibility and exposure for Bethune-Cookman, not just in basketball but across the board. There are still relatively few Black athletic directors except at HBCUs, and even fewer that have his track record.
The Theus hiring continues what’s been a welcome trend for HBCUs the past couple of years. More high profile Black former top athletes are choosing Black colleges as places to work, and their presence also provides incentive for more coverage from mainstream publications and outlets. Anticipation for this fall’s revived Southern Heritage Classic, the first matchup between teams coached by Sanders and George, is extremely high.
Jackson State’s last games this spring all were aired on either ESPN, ESPN 2 or ESPNU rather than the streaming service ESPN +, which is where all TSU’s games were shown. It will be instructive to see whether the Tigers earn a promotion to the main broadcast channels in the wake of George’s hiring. They certainly got a huge boost in national publicity when he was hired, and the addition of former NFL head coach Hue Jackson, as well as the son of former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, to his coaching staff has no doubt ensured far more attention and coverage, both locally and across the state, than the Tigers have gotten in quite a while.
Ultimately, how these coaches fare on the court or field will determine their fate. But the hope is that as more big name former star Black athletes embrace coaching at HBCUs perhaps they can also attract more topflight Black high school athletes to consider Black colleges as viable places to play college basketball and football.
In turn, that may also get HBCUs more exposure and coverage on mainstream outlets. Time will tell whether this proves the case, but the early results are very promising.