Morgan's revival gets coach Hill-Eley a 3-year contract

He has ended decades of doormat status

December 01, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

In Donald Hill-Eley's six seasons as coach, Morgan State has risen from college football purgatory to become a college football destination.

"When I took the job, I'd call people and nobody wanted to come to Morgan State," he said. "Everybody wanted to play Morgan State because we weren't competitive."

Thirty wins later, the Bears have bridged the gap between doormat and respectability. For that, Hill-Eley has been given a three-year contract with two one-year options by the university. His current contract would have expired Dec. 31.

"I told the players and I told the administration that right now, I'm taking over a job that is better than it was when I took it over the first time" in 2002, said Hill-Eley, who signed his new deal Wednesday.

"And they're getting a better coach than they did the first time. I'm 38; I'm seasoned now. Before, they took a chance on me, and I wasn't. It's good for both of us."

Hill-Eley had been negotiating an extension since September. Before he arrived, Morgan had a string of 22 consecutive seasons under .500. The Bears are 30-37 during his tenure.

"Talking to the president [Earl S. Richardson] and Coach Hill, there were a number of things that went into [the new contract]," university spokesman Jarrett L. Carter said. "One was looking at the overall strength of the program, something both sides were very pleased about. Both sides are very pleased about the outcome."

Richardson was unavailable to comment yesterday.

Under Hill-Eley, Morgan has upgraded its recruiting, particularly with Florida-based talent, and won the recruiting battle for transfers. Among players who have transferred in are tailback Chad Simpson, the Offensive Player of the Year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season, from South Florida; offensive tackle Robert Norris from Virginia Tech; and cornerback Darren McKahn from Connecticut.

Meanwhile, sophomores-to-be Devan James, a tailback, and Sheldon Jacques, a defensive lineman, chose Morgan over Auburn and Florida International, respectively.

The Bears went 5-6 this year, including a loss to Delaware State on Oct. 20 when officials mistakenly took away a Morgan touchdown that probably would have iced the game. They also lost two games in overtime.

"I think we're right there," Hill-Eley said. "We pressed everybody we played. The competitive edge is there, the depth is there, the interest is there. Our focus now is championships, and it's reachable."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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