Central State replacing four of its five head coaches: ‘We’re moving in a different direction'

Central State Athletic Director Tara Owens in the school’s gymnasium. Nick Novy/CONTRIBUTED

When its conference-wide, COVID-19 restrictions are eased and Central State begins its athletic competitions again, it will do so with all new head coaches from a year ago.

Coming into this school year, the contracts of four of the Marauders' five head coaches were not renewed. That included: Joseph Price of men’s basketball, women’s basketball’s LaTonya McDole, James Rollins, who headed both the cross country and track and field programs, and Christina Coleman of women’s volleyball.

And last February, Bobby Rome was hired as the Marauders new football head coach, replacing Cedric Pearl.

“We’re moving in a different direction,” said CSU athletics director Tara Owens.

She said the school plans on having all four head coaching positions filled by the end of October.

CSU – which is in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), a league made up mostly of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) – competes at the NCAA Division II level.

The school has drawn overwhelming interest in its open positions school officials have said. There have been over 100 applicants for the men’s basketball job. Women’s basketball has 70 candidates, while track attracted 50 and volleyball, 20.

“The response was more than we anticipated and it’s great,” admitted Owens, who’s been the school’s athletics director for two years after serving several years as the AD of Baltimore City Community College and, before that, coaching women’s basketball at several colleges.

“There are a lot of people from all over the country who want to be a head coach now,” she said. “Some of it might be because of where we’re located and there are plenty of people who want to coach at an HBCU.”

As for the recently-departed coaches, they all had HBCU connections, as well:

Rollins was especially tied to CSU. He was a celebrated hurdler at the school in the mid-1990s and was part of two NAIA national championship teams. He became a four-time national champ in the hurdles and two-time NAIA All American.

He took over as the Marauders' track and field and cross country coach of both men and women in 2013 an was inducted into the CSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

Price, the men’s hoops coach, had two winning seasons in the six years he was at CSU and an overall record of 77-97. Last season’s team went 17-13.

After playing collegiately at Notre Dame and 13 years as a pro overseas, he was an assistant coach at four schools and then the head coach at Grambling State before coming to CSU.

McDole, who played at Trotwood Madison High and the University of Kentucky, where she scored 1,180 points and grabbed 711 rebounds, was an assistant at CSU before serving as the interim head coach in 2017-18 when the Marauders went 23-6. After she taking over the program, her teams went 26-33 over the past two seasons.

Coleman had been a head coach at Shaw, Georgetown College and Kentucky State before taking over CSU’s new volleyball program last season and going 10-22.

To date, CSU has lost only one notable athlete from last season and that was not due to the coaching changes.

Freshman basketball star, Darweshi Hunter – an HBCU All-American and the SIAC Player of the Year – transferred to Weber State, an NCAA Division I school. The 6-foot-5 guard led the SIAC with a 20.7 points per-game average last season and led the Marauders with a 6.1 rebounding average. In an exhibition game before the season, he scored 35 points against Wright State.

In July, the continuing COVID outbreak prompted the SIAC to cancel all fall sports for its 14-team league. It is still debating whether football will be played in the spring. A tentative January start of the season is being considered for men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Owens said new CSU president Jack Thomas – a former college track athlete himself – is “a great supporter of athletics. He understands the impact athletics has on an institution.”

She said Central State – which upgraded from NAIA status 12 years ago – remains "absolutely Division II strong. We’re trying to implement and process things to get to the next level.

“We have a very talented pool of candidates we’re going through. I see some great things happening at Central State.”

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