I grew up less than ten miles from my father’s alma mater, South Carolina State University, so when football season rolled around, many of his college buddies would tend to congregate at our house any weekend there was a home game. A few of them had played football for the historically black college back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, which gave them an endless supply of war stories to draw upon as they handicapped each game. There was a certain reverence, though, when they spoke about the annual contest against Grambling State University and “Ed-die”, the Tigers eternal coach who was then on the cusp of becoming college football’s winningest coach.
“Ed-die” Robinson’s football teams were feared by its opponents in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and the Mid Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) for decades. You could measure the strength of a South Carolina State University’s opponent back in those days by the time the fans would arrive for the game. If a weak team was on the schedule, fans would make sure to arrive in time to see the bands play at halftime. Strong teams like the Grambling Tigers often had the stadium filled to capacity by kickoff, and in later years, became the black college contest-of-the-week featured on ESPN or BET.
Last Saturday, the Eddie G. Robinson Museum opened on the Grambling State University campus. The eighteen thousand square foot structure, converted from a former gymnasium, honors the incredible 57 years that Coach Robinson spent at the helm of his beloved football team. Eddie Robinson’s 408 victories as a head coach will likely never be matched. The two hundred plus players his organization sent to the national football league, many of them at a time when the league was just beginning to draft black football players, is also a record among coaches at historically black colleges.
“Nobody has ever done or will ever do what Eddie Robinson has done for this game. Our profession will never, ever be able to repay Eddie Robinson for what he has done for this country and the profession of football.”
Joe Paterno, legendary head football coach at Penn State University
“First time I met Eddie was around 1968 up at Uniontown, Pa. I was an assistant coach at West Virginia, and he was the head coach at Grambling and very successful. He came up there and spoke at a banquet. I heard him speak, and he’s the kind of guy that you get close to immediately. … He was a people’s person. You can’t help but like him … I doubt if there is a coach in the United States that people have more respect for — and loved — than for Eddie Robinson.”
Bobby Bowden, legendary head football coach at Florida State University
Super Bowl XXII MVP quarterback Doug Williams, a Grambling quarterback under Robinson, succeeded his former coach and mentor as Grambling’s head coach in 1998. Rod Broadway, who is the ninth head coach of Grambling State, is in his second year at the helm of the football program.