Sept. 29, 2009
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Winston-Salem State University football team will play their third of five consecutive road contests this weekend as they travel to Washington, D.C. and the campus of Howard University as they attempt to win their first game of the 2009 season in a bid to avoid falling to 0-5 for the first time since the 1975 season as they take on the Bison of Howard at William H. Greene Stadium.
The Rams return to action on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 1:00 p.m. as they travel to the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. to face the Bison of Howard University. The Rams look to even the all-time series between the two schools at 4-4 with a victory. The Rams head to William H. Greene Stadium looking to earn their first win of the season as they look to snap a six-game losing streak which dates back to Nov. 15 of last season. The Bison look to avenge a 24-point drubbing (34-10) that they suffered at the hands of the Rams last season in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Bison are coming off of their first win of the season as they defeated cross-town rival Georgetown University last weekend 14-11 to capture the D.C. Cup.
The contest is the fifth game of the season for WSSU. The Rams have lost all four of their contests this season as they have dropped decisions to North Carolina A&T (19-10 on Sept. 5), Florida A&M (34-10 on Sept. 10), Morgan State (16-10 in overtime on Sept. 19) and #14 South Carolina State (27-10 on Sept. 26) as the Rams enter the contest sporting an 0-4 record. The Bison enter the contest with a 1-2 record after dropping decisions to Rutgers (45-7 on Sept. 12) and Florida A&M (48-10 on Sept. 17) and following last weekend’s victory over Georgetown (14-11 on Sept. 26).
The Bison currently lead the all-time series 4-3. The series between the two teams dates back to the 1985 season when the Rams won the inaugural meeting between the two programs by the score of 12-7. Following the Rams’ victory the Bison ran off a trio of wins (in 1986, 1993, and 2005) before WSSU snapped the three-game losing streak by the score of 12-0 on Oct. 7, 2006 at WSSU’s Homecoming. Howard enacted revenge in 2007 with a 24-21 overtime victory in Washington, D.C. and WSSU won last season 34-10 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
There is no local, regional, or national television coverage for the Rams’ contest versus the Bison. Highlights of the game will be made available to the local media immediately following the game. To obtain footage and highlights, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations.
The Rams On TV
Over the past seven seasons (including 2009), the WSSU football team has appeared on television 11 times and the Rams have posted a 6-5 mark while doing so. The Rams’ have been featured on television twice this season as WSSU dropped a 19-10 decision to North Carolina A&T on Sept. 5 in a contest shown on Time Warner Cable and WSSU dropped a 34-10 decision to Florida A&M on Sept. 10 on ESPNU.
There is no WSSU radio broadcast of the Rams’ contest versus the Bison. For additional broadcast information, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143.
There is no Howard radio broadcast of of this weekend’s contest. For additional broadcast information, contact the Howard University Office of Athletic Media Relations at (202) 806-7184.
Live Statistical Broadcast
A live statistical broadcast of the game, utilizing CBS College Sport’s Gametracker statistical software will be available on the Official Website of WSSU Athletics at WSSURams.com. Fans may access the live stats by visiting the WSSU football schedule page and clicking on the Gametracker link.
Saturday’s contest is slated to be played in moderate weather as the forecast calls for high temperatures of 75° with a low of 58° and a 40 percent chance of precipitation under mostly cloudy skies with isolated showers possible. Humidity is slated to be 75 percent with winds out of the South at 10 miles per hour with a UV index of five (moderate). Sunrise will take place at 7:06 a.m. EST and will set at 6:47 p.m. EST.
Setting The Scene
The Rams head into the contest riding a cumulative six-game losing streak as they have not won a contest since a 27-26 victory over Delaware State that came in Dover, Del. on Nov. 8 of last season. The Rams are looking for their first win of the season in hopes of avoiding falling to 0-5 for the first time since the 1975 season. The Rams are coming off of a 27-10 loss to #14 South Carolina State University. Conversely, the Bison are coming off of their first victory of the season following a 14-11 victory over Georgetown University that saw them capture the D.C. Cup.
The Rams are coached by 17th-year man Kermit Blount, the winningest coach in WSSU football history. Blount has posted an impressive 90-81-3 mark at WSSU and has led the Rams to a pair of conference (CIAA) titles (in 1999 and 2000). He has posted a 2-3 overall mark versus Howard since taking over as head coach in 1993. Blount has posted an 1-1 mark versus Howard head coach Carey Bailey.
The Bison are led by Carey Bailey who is in his third season at the head of the Howard University football program. Bailey has posted a 6-19 overall record as the head man at Howard and is looking for his second-ever win over the Rams. Bailey is 1-1 versus Kermit Blount.
Sitting In First Place
With his 27-26 victory over Delaware State on Nov. 8, 2008 Winston-Salem State University head football coach Kermit Blount became the winningest coach in WSSU football history. Blount, who is in the midst of his 17th season as the Rams’ head coach, has posted an all-time mark of 90-81-3 and with his 90th victory moved into first place atop the WSSU all-time win chart, one victory ahead of legendary WSSU head coach and current Director of Athletics at Florida A&M University, Bill Hayes.
The Rams and Bison are not ranked in either of the major, national polls. The MEAC has two ranked teams as South Carolina State is ranked 15th in the Sports Network Poll and is ranked 14th in the Coaches’ Poll. Florida A&M is sitting in 24th place in the Sports Network poll and is 23rd in the Coaches’ poll.
Next up for the Rams are the Aggies of the University of California-Davis. The two teams have never met. WSSU will travel 2708.9 miles to Davis, California to face the Aggies on October 17 following a weekend off on October 10. The Aggies are members of the Great West Conference (NCAA Division I-FCS) and are coached by Bob Biggs, a 1973 graduate of UC-Davis. The Aggies are coming off of a 5-7 season in 2008 and are amongst the favorites for the Great West football crown in 2009.
First Division I Winning Season
With their convincing 35-10 win over the Eagles of North Carolina Central on Nov. 10, 2007, the Rams earned their first winning season at the Division I level. WSSU recorded six wins during the 2007 season, the most wins for the Rams since making the jump from NCAA Division II to Division I.
The 2008 season was the 67th in Winston-Salem State University history. Through nearly 68 years of play, WSSU owns a 353-280-25 (.537) record.
Players who are listed as OUT for Saturday’s game are: #82 Jarrin Wooten (WR/Freshman) with a shoulder injury; #81 Melquan Weston (WR/Freshman) with an ankle injury; #50 Juan Corders (LB/Senior) with a shoulder injury and #71 Nazir Levine (OL/Junior) with a knee injury.
There are no players listed as DOUBTFUL for Saturday’s contest. Players who are listed as QUESTIONABLE for Saturday’s contest are #37 John Thompson, Jr. (RB/Sophomore) with a shoulder injury and #55 Joshua Newkirk (DL/Sophomore) with a thigh injury. Players listed as PROBABLE for Saturday’s contest are: #26 Brandon McRae (RB/Senior) with a shoulder injury and #40 Jimmie Johnson (TE/Freshman) with a knee injury.
Understanding The Injury Chart
The Rams use the National Football League’s injury chart model which separates injuries into four categories: (1) “Out” which indicates that a player will not play in the upcoming game and will not be dressed for the contest. (2) “Doutbful” which indicates that a player will have only a 25 percent chance of playing. (3) “Questionable” which indicates that a player will have a 50 percent chance of playing, and (4) “Probable” which indicates that a player has a 75 percent chance of playing.
Winston-Salem State University’s Department of Athletics abides by HIPAA, a federal privacy act with regard to the release of injury information. WSSU athletes are required to sign a waiver before injury information is released to the media. If the athlete chooses to withhold that information, WSSU officials will be restricted to informing media members of their playing status (playing, probable, doubtful or out).
Giving Up The Big One
The 2009 edition of the Rams have given up 20 plays of 20 yards or more this season. Conversely the Rams have recorded only 11 plays of 20 yards or more.
Yards Per Play Problems
The Rams are gaining only 3.0 yards per offensive play yet are yielding 4.8 yards per offensive play to their opponents. As a direct result, the Rams have been outscored 96-40 through four games in 2009.
Through four games this season the Rams have committed 33 penalties for 252 yards. That equates to 8.25 penalties per game for 63 yards per contest. That is in comparison to last season when the Rams committed only 50 total penalties for 419 yards for an average of 4.54 penalties per game and 38.09 yards per game.
Last 0-5 Start
The Rams are looking for a win this weekend to avoid falling to an 0-5 start. The Rams’ last 0-5 start came during the 1975 season when WSSU started the season 0-9 under head coach Cleo Wallace.
Never Done It
Under head coach Kermit Blount the Rams have never started a season 0-5. In fact, as a head coach Kermit Blount has never lost five consecutive contests in the same season. The Rams hope to keep that streak intact this weekend as they look for a win at Howard.
Growing Up Fast
The Rams’ 2009 roster is comprised of 60 underclassmen and 37 upperclassmen. 42 of those underclassmen are freshmen with the roster being comprised of those 42 newcomers, 18 sophomores, 21 juniors and 16 seniors. Of the newcomers, none may be any more important than 6-7, 320-pound offensive lineman Jonathan Crawley. Crawley comes to WSSU from Hugenot High School (Richmond, Va.) where he played left tackle and left guard in high school before switching to right tackle upon his arrival at WSSU. Crawley has started all four games for the Rams this season.
Shore Up The Offensive Line
The young Rams’ offensive front has given up 15 sacks through four games this season. For the Rams to have success in 2009 the offensive line must improve in a hurry. The Rams are averaging only 3.0 yards per play including an average of only 2.8 yards per rush.
The Rams have no problems at kicker this season. Freshman Landen Thayer, a former player at West Forsyth High School, is handling both the placekicking and punting duties for the Rams this season. The 5-10, 185-pound Thayer has been extremely impressive in his four career games with the Rams as he has made four of his five field goal attempts and has successfully converted all four of his point after touchdown attempts. He leads the team in scoring with 16 points.
The Rams got a bit of good news on Sept. 1 as they found out that redshirt sophomore running back Cedrick Hickman, a 6-1, 220-pound bruiser who transferred from North Carolina State would be eligible to play for the Rams this season. Hickman, the 34th-ranked running back coming out of high school (Rivals.com) spent a season at Hargrave Military Academy following his career at North Forsyth High School and prior to his matriculation to North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. He is currently the Rams’ second leading rusher with 115 yards on 38 carries for an average of 3.0 yards per rush. Hickman has yet to find the endzone but has only one rushing attempt that did not yield positive yardage thus far this season.
The Rams are not afraid to go deep into their depth chart of personnel. 44 different players saw playing time in the Rams’ loss to North Carolina A&T; 48 different players saw playing time in the loss to Florida A&M; 44 players saw the field in WSSU’s loss to Morgan State and WSSU saw 45 players take the field vesus #14 South Carolina State.
Start Streak Continues
Senior linebacker Chedrick Marshall pushed his consecutive start streak to 26 games last weekend versus South Carolina State. Marshall now owns the longest active start streak on the WSSU roster.
Former Ram Playing Well In NFL
Former WSSU defensive end William Hayes is playing well in his second NFL season. Hayes, a standout defensive end for the Rams that appeared in 29 games for the Rams was selected by the Tennessee Titans with the 103rd overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Hayes finished his rookie campaign in 2008 with 21 tackles, a sack, two quarterback pressures, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass defended. He is currently listed behind former NFL All-Pro Jevon Kearse on the Titans depth chart. Hayes currently has nine total tackles in 2009 as he has collected six solo tackles, a trio of assisted tackles and half a sack in three appearances with Tennessee this season.
Stephen Young’s Break Out
In 2008 Stephen Young turned in one of the most impressive freshman campaigns in WSSU history. Young ranked seventh on the team in tackles with 41 total tackles and recorded a team-leading 10 tackles for loss. As well Young recorded five sacks. forced one fumble and recovered three others. Through three games of the 2009 season he has collected eight solo tackles, five assisted tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack.
10 Is The Loneliest Number?
The Rams had difficulty putting points on the board in 2008 as WSSU averaged only 16.1 points per game. In contrast, WSSU surrendered 22.7 points per game to their opponents. Thus far in 2009 the Rams have scored only 40 points through three games for an average of 10.0 points per game. WSSU has scored exactly 10 points in all four games this season.
Young Offensive Line
The Rams gave up a total of 36 sacks in 2008 as they lost 195 total yards. In contrast WSSU recorded only 22 sacks on the season. Through four games of the 2009 season the Rams have surrendered 15 sacks for an average of 3.75 sacks allowed per contest.
Better Away From Home?
The Rams posted a 1-5 record at home in 2008 and posted a 2-3 record away from the friendly confines of Bowman Gray Stadium. WSSU has posted an 0-2 record at home already this season as they prepare to play five consecutive games away from home. The Rams do not return home to Bowman Gray Stadium until a Halloween Homecoming contest versus Hampton on Oct. 31. WSSU dropped their second of five straight road contests last weekend at #14 South Carolina State by the score of 27-10.
Beaten All But Two
Since the Rams’ transition to the NCAA Division I level, WSSU has beaten every team in the MEAC at least once, except for two. The Rams have never beaten the Spartans of Norfolk State or the Bulldogs of South Carolina State since making the move from Division II to Division I. Since making the move to NCAA Division I the Rams have posted a 10-19 record versus MEAC opponents.
Division I Transition Decision
Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) announced on Sept. 11 that it would inform the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) that the university intends to remain a Division II institution for intercollegiate athletics. The process to remain in Division II will begin immediately, but the school will continue to compete in the MEAC at the Division I level through the 2009-2010 season.
At a special called meeting, the university’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to support the recommendation of Chancellor Donald J. Reaves to bring to a close the reclassification to Division I process that was begun in 2004. Reaves praised the vision of former WSSU chancellors who had supported the move to Division I, but stated that “in the final analysis the resources to complete the reclassification simply were not available, currently nor prospectively, in sufficient amounts”.
“This decision is probably the hardest one I have ever had to make because I believe that WSSU belongs in Division I,” said Chancellor Reaves. “If there were any reasonable way to complete this transition without diverting resources from competing academic priorities, I would have recommended that we stay the course.
“Over the past two years, we have continued to be concerned that budgetary constraints would not allow us to successfully complete the transition,” Reaves added. “As the athletics deficits continued to mount, there appeared to be no rational way we could continue the process. I believe that this is the right decision for WSSU at this point in time given our resources.
“Our goal now is to complete the move to NCAA Division II and find a conference home for our athletic program before the 2010-2011 season begins. We have been reviewing all of the options in our region and our preference would be to return to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA). We will, however, have to complete the reclassification process with the NCAA and file a letter of interest with Commission Leon Kerry at the CIAA.”
The spending side of the budget for the WSSU athletics program has grown during the three-year period of 2005-2006 through 2008-2009 from approximately $2.88 million to $5.58 million while total revenue grew from $2.07 million to $3.77 million. Just for the fiscal year that ended June 30, the athletic program generated a deficit of approximately $1.8 million. The increase in expenses was directly connected to the transition to Division I which requires that an institution field a minimum of 14 teams and add substantially more resources such as scholarships, coaches and facilities.
“While our expenses have increased as one would reasonably expect, the budget problem that we have encountered is a revenue-side problem” Reaves added. “Currently, nearly 80% of total revenue comes from a single source, student fees. While the university has the second highest athletic fee in the UNC system, our fee is among the lowest in the MEAC where we are competing. With the size of our student body, it became evident that we were always going to be at a financial disadvantage.”
UNC President Erskine Bowles also expressed support for Chancellor Reaves’ recommendation. “I know that Chancellor Reaves explored every viable option before reaching this difficult decision, but in the end WSSU - like every other UNC campus - must operate its athletic department on a fiscally responsible basis. And it cannot put the burden of doing so all on the backs of its students. Particularly in light of current economic conditions, Chancellor Reaves made the hard - but right - choice to put academic priorities ahead of athletic aspirations.”
“Even though the decision has been made to remain at Division II, we will continue to develop options for increasing revenue for our athletic program,” said Reaves. “We have increased our marketing efforts for the 2009 football season and we hope that will support our efforts to increase ticket sales, sponsorships and other fundraising activities.”
The process of reclassifying the WSSU athletic program to Division II will begin with a letter of intent to the NCAA Division II Membership Services Sub-Committee. The university will also have to reduce the size of its athletic program from the Division I to the Division II level, which includes reducing the number of athletic scholarships. There also may need to be reductions in the size of the athletic staff in order to generate the savings needed to run the program within the parameters of the resources that are available.
“With regard to our students-athletes, some of whom will be affected by this decision, we will be working with each affected-student to ensure that to the extent possible they are held harmless. Those who may be affected by this move, either through loss of scholarship or the move from Division I athletics, will be given as much guidance and assistance as possible,” Reaves explained. “While our athletic program is very important to the university, our number one short-term priority is the well-being of our student-athletes.”
About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, is a public university founded in 1892 in Winston-Salem, NC. WSSU is a historically black university that today is a recognized regional institution offering baccalaureate and graduate programs to a diverse student population. U.S. News and World Report has ranked the university among Top Public Comprehensive Colleges in the South -- Bachelor’s Category for the last nine years (2001-2009). WSSU currently offers more than 40 baccalaureate and 10 master’s degree programs to a student population of more than 6,400.
Student Athlete Contact
Home and cellular telephone numbers for student-athletes will not be provided and players have been instructed not to accept calls from media members without prior notice from the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations. Please do not attempt to make contact with WSSU student-athletes or coaches without scheduling the interview through the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations.
WSSU Football Practices
The WSSU football team practices at the dual-field practice facility located adjacent to the Bowman Gray Stadium Fieldhouse (at the Civitan Park site). The new state-of-the-art practice facility officially opened in the spring of 2009. Practices are open to the media and are the opportune time for lengthy print or television interviews. Practice times vary according to academic schedules, so please contact the Office of Athletic Media Relations and Assistant Director of Athletics, Chris Zona for the specifics.
Weekly Football Press Conference
The Winston-Salem State University football team will hold a weekly press conference/media day every Wednesday during the season at 11:00 a.m. in the Media and Hospitality Lounge of the WSSU Athletic Fieldhouse, located on the upper level of the WSSU Athletic Fieldhouse. The weekly press conference is open to any member of the working media. The first press conference of the season will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 2 with the remainder of the weekly press conferences to be held every Wednesday prior to a Saturday game. The remaining press conferences will occur on September 16, 23 and 30, October 14, 21 and 28, Nov. 4, 11 and Nov. 18. The only exception to the 2009 weekly press conference schedule will be the week of the Rams’ Sept. 10 contest at Florida A&M. Due to time constraints imposed by the Thursday evening television contest, the Rams will not hold a weekly press conference the week of Sept. 6-12. At all weekly press conferences head coach Kermit Blount and select players will be on hand to give general comments and field questions. Requests for the attendance of specific players must be made no later than Monday at 11:00 am prior to the upcoming press conference. Following the press conference, a complimentary lunch will be served to all members of the working media.
All interviews with Winston-Salem State University football student-athletes and coaches should be arranged through Chris Zona in the Office of Athletic Media Relations. Please make interview arrangements at least 24 hours in advance. Most interviews will be arranged to start prior to practice or, with time permitting, will be scheduled to take place on the Rams’ weekly media day (Wednesday). Players will not do interviews on game day, except for postgame interviews. Telephone interviews may also be arranged through the Office of Athletic Media Relations.
Official Web Site
Parents, fans, and alumni from around the world can tune into Winston-Salem State University football on the official Internet site of Winston-Salem State University athletics, WSSURAMS.com. In addition to having all the up-to-date information on WSSU athletics, all games broadcast on WSNC 90.5 FM radio will air live on the Rams’ website as well.
WSSU Athletics On Twitter
Follow all of the latest, breaking news on WSSU athletics on Twitter at twitter.com/WSSUAthletics. Scoring updates, game analysis and post game wrap-ups will be posted live on the Rams’ and Lady Rams’ Twitter account. Create an account of your own and follow the WSSU action.
The WSSU locker room is closed to the media. At all home games, the post-game interview format will be as follows: After a 10 minute, NCAA mandated cooling off period the visiting coach will be escorted to the media room/area. After all visiting interviews are completed, WSSU Head Coach Kermit Blount and all requested WSSU players will report to the media room/area. The media room is located on the upper level of the WSSU Athletic Fieldhouse which is located in the north end zone of Bowman Gray Stadium (contact a WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations staff member for additional information). If the visiting team’s locker room is closed to the media, interviews with opposing-team players are generally held outside the locker room in the hallway (contact the opposing team’s SID for additional information).
WSSU Media Services
A media packet including, but not limited to, a game program, game notes, lineups, roster cards and statistics will be available for each media member before the game. During the game, quickie statistics will be distributed after each quarter of play. Complete play-by-play, scoring summaries, individual, and team statistics will be distributed following each half and at the conclusion of the game in the postgame package. A media meal is provided and is usually served 60 minutes prior to kick-off. Only credentialed media will be allowed in the media dining room. A fax machine will be provided for media use on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is no charge for this service. Statistical monitors will be provided for live TV, both radio stations, the Winston-Salem Journal, and the Associated Press. High-speed Internet access is available in the media room and in all press areas.