Archdeacon: A coaching reboot for Central State once again

George Ragsdale will serve as the interim head coach of Central State football for the rest of the season. Ncik Novy/Central State Athletics photo
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George Ragsdale will serve as the interim head coach of Central State football for the rest of the season. Ncik Novy/Central State Athletics photo

George Ragsdale replaces Bobby Rome as Marauders football coach

In a surprising turn of events, Central State head coach Bobby Rome – who had been seen as the cornerstone of the Marauders’ football reboot and was the public face of the program for the past 20 months – resigned Monday afternoon.

George Ragsdale – the team’s running backs and wide receivers coach and a veteran of nearly 40 years of coaching at the college and high school level – has taken over as the interim head coach for the final four games of the CSU season.

His reign begins Saturday when the 1-5 Marauders host 2-4 Tuskegee at McPherson Stadium.

It is third time in Ragsdale’s college career that he has stepped in on short notice as an interim head coach. In 2008 he coached the final four games of the season at North Carolina A & T, his alma mater, after Lee Fobbs was fired.

And in 2013 he replaced Doug Williams, the legendary NFL quarterback turned college head coach, when he was fired with five weeks left in Grambling’s season.

Rome’s resignation followed a weekend trip to Fort Valley State in Georgia, where the Marauders lost 35-14.

Neither he, nor CSU officials, would go into detail about what prompted their split.

“I stepped down from my position Monday afternoon and am looking forward to my next opportunity,” Rome, who lives in Huber Heights with his wife and young son, said Thursday afternoon.

Asked why he left after he and his players had expressed so much optimism about the future just a few weeks ago, Rome said: “You’ve got to ask Central State more on that situation.”

Caption
Central State coach Bobby Rome II watches the action in the first half against Kentucky State on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Central State coach Bobby Rome II watches the action in the first half against Kentucky State on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Central State coach Bobby Rome II watches the action in the first half against Kentucky State on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Central State spokesman Nick Novy simply said: “Coach let us know he was going to resign on Tuesday and we’ve had to move forward rather quickly.”

Marauders Athletics Director Tara Owens said much the same thing in her one-paragraph statement on the change.

Another person close to the CSU program said Rome’s resignation was prompted, in part, by a situation that followed the long, 625-mile bus ride home from Georgia on Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

Allegedly, some players, against Rome’s directive, lingered at a final rest stop to buy food items rather than reboard quickly so the tiring bus driver could get them home.

Back on campus near dawn, Rome and his coaches reportedly put the players through some running drills in an effort to reprimand and rebond. Afterward the players and coaches talked about the situation. A few players refused to run and left the team.

CSU officials got involved in the situation Monday and Rome ended up resigning.

While Ragsdale, who was a hall of fame running back at North Carolina A&T, played three years in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has coached at six historically black colleges (HBCUs) – is an extremely capable replacement, the loss of Rome is a blow to CSU.

He was hired in February 2020 to replace Cedric Pearl, who had gone 19-46 in six seasons.

The 33-year-old Rome was hired by Owens and trumpeted as the man who could turn CSU’s recent fortunes around.

After winning NAIA national titles in 1990, 1992 and 1995, CSU shut down its program for eight years due to financial and other reasons.

Since the 2005 rebirth, the Marauders had lost 107 of their 146 games before Rome took over.

He was their fifth head coach in that time.

When the COVID pandemic brought everything to a halt – CSU students were sent home in the spring of 2020, the 2020 fall football season was canceled and so were spring drills in 2021 – Rome turned into the Pied Piper of Promise.

He worked daily trying to reseed the well-worn field at McPherson Stadium until, several months later, NFL Hall of Famer Willie Lanier announced his Honey Bear Project would give CSU nearly $1 million to put in artificial turf.

Rome brought in several new coaches and more than three dozen new players. The team got new uniforms and had a new attitude.

“We’ve all bought into Coach Rome,” veteran defensive back Malik Johnson said before the first game. “It’s going to be great this year.”

But the Marauders, who had just 16 days of practice before they played their first game Aug. 28, were decimated by injuries, especially on defense.

In six games, CSU has given up 215 points (35.8 per game), while scoring just 77 themselves.

They lost their two showcase games: 20-6 to Kentucky State in the season opening Classic For Columbus and then 46-34 to Allen University, a provisional NCAA Division II program, at Homecoming earlier this month, the game in which their new field was unveiled.

In between there were back-to-back blowout losses to Shaw and Miles by the combined score of 107-4.

Rome, who had been a fullback at North Carolina University and an All Pro in the United Football, had a reputation for building programs, both at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia, and then Virginia University, a small HBCU in Lynchburg, Va., that was riding a 44-game losing streak when he took over in 2018

His team won four games that first season, but went winless in 2019.

Then came the offer from CSU. At the time, Owens spoke of the school’s national search and how he was a perfect fit.

But now, after just six games, CSU has had to return to the fitting room, yet again.

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