FAMU Coach Joe Taylor Retires

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    One of the most storied college football coaching careers in history ended Saturday when Joe Taylor announced his retirement from Florida A&M.

    One of the most storied college football coaching careers in history ended Saturday when Joe Taylor announced his retirement from Florida A&M.

    Taylor, whose career spanned 30 years and included stints at Howard (1983), Virginia Union (1984-91) and Hampton (1992-2007) as well as Florida A&M, announced his retirement during the Rattlers’ pregame breakfast hours before their game against North Carolina A&T last Saturday. His original plans were to coach the Rattlers’ in their homecoming game against North Carolina Central Saturday and in their season finale against arch-rival Bethune-Cookman Nov. 17 in the Florida Classic.

    However, because of the “enormous amount of (media) coverage’’ surrounding his retirement, Taylor, 62, said Wednesday that his retirement is effective immediately so the team can focus on its final two games.

    Defensive coordinator Earl Holmes will coach the Rattlers in their final two games on an interim basis.

    Taylor finishes his career with a 233-96-4 record, which places him in the top five among NCAA Division I FCS coaches with a .709 career winning percentage. He is tied for third on the black college career victory list with former Southern coach Arnett W. “Ace’’ Mumford, trailing only “Big John’’ Merritt, who won 235 games at Jackson State and Tennessee State, and the legendary Eddie Robinson who 408 games at Grambling.

    “I’m just grateful,’’ Taylor says. “It’s been a Hall of Fame career.”

    Taylor was 35-19 in five seasons at Florida A&M. He led the Rattlers to a share of the 2010 MEAC championship, tying South Carolina State and Bethune-Cookman for the crown. Taylor’s teams won four SBN Black College National titles and 10 conference championships and made 12 postseason appearances.

    Taylor was well-respected throughout the college football ranks. He is a member of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Board of Directors. In 2001 he became only the third coach from an HBCU, behind Robinson (1976) and Billy Joe of Florida A&M (1995), to serve as President of the AFCA.

    Taylor was in the final season of a five-year contract that paid him $225,000 a year plus a $12,000 year annual housing allowance. The Rattlers are 3-6, leading to unrest among fans, and Taylor hadn’t been offered a new contract. But he says those weren’t factors in his decision.

    In fact, Taylor says he and his wife concluded that this would be his final season last year over Christmas dinner.

    “This is number 40 (in coaching),’’ he says. “30 as a head coach. Forty years is 40 years. I’ve been walking the sidelines for 40 years. I probably need a good pedicure. I’m running, jogging and lifting every day. I’ve got my health. I’m not leaving because somebody is saying it’s not healthy to stay.’’

    Taylor considered announcing over the summer that he would retire at the end of the season. But after talking to former South Carolina State coach Willie Jeffries, who announced during the summer of 2001 that he would retire at the end of the upcoming season.

    Everywhere the Bulldogs played on the road that year, Jeffries received gifts that were symbolic of retirement.

    “I didn’t want to do it the whole year,’’ Taylor says. “That would have been too much fanfare. I wanted enough time left so it could be public and people would know.’’

    Taylor had his most successful years at Hampton where he was 136-49-1 over a 16-year period. While at Hampton, he produced a number of NFL players, including Justin Durant of the Detroit Lions and Kendall Langford of the St. Louis Rams. Taylor led the Pirates to four Black College National Championships, eight conference titles and seven appearances in the NCAA playoffs.

    “He ranks up there with the greatest black college coaches of all time, and definitely of his era,’’ ESPN College Football Analyst Jay Walker says. “He has won everywhere he has gone. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he did at Hampton. They made a seamless transition from Division II to Division I (FCS). Not many HBCUs have done that. They all took their beatings.’’

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