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OSU Football: More Savannah State candor

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I had a chance to chat with Savannah State football coach Steve Davenport last week. We talked about the Tigers’ game this week at Oklahoma State, and if you saw some of his comments in Monday’s paper, you know that the coach didn’t pull any punches.

He was honest.

Brutally honest.

His program has been an FCS team (what most of us know as Division I-AA) for only a decade. Before that, it was an NCAA Division II team much like Central Oklahoma and Southwestern State are from our neck of the woods. Wins have been hard for Savannah State to come by since becoming an FCS program — the past two seasons have both be one-win campaigns – and Davenport knows that beating OSU will be next to impossible.

But I’ll give Davenport, who is starting his second season at Savannah State, this much — if having a clear picture of where you stand counts for anything, he’s got his program on the right path.

Here’s some more of what he had to say about his program and about playing OSU, the first FBS team (Division I-A) program that Savannah State has ever faced:

“It’s a building process. We took a step last year in what we think is the right direction. We’re nowhere close to where we need to be. We’re only going to bring four seniors to Stillwater, so we’re still a very young football team and program. But you’ve gotta take baby steps at some point.

“We think from an athletic perspective that the revenues that are created from this game will allow us to do some things that’ll get this program going in the right direction in terms of facilities upgrades and coaches, in the terms of the numbers of them. The money will be applied to help the program, and … some things that may not be present when we walk off the filed at Oklahoma State or walk off the field at Florida State (Savannah State’s opponent in Week 2) … will be present five years from now with those monies being applied.

“Without a doubt, no matter who else you put on our schedule, we weren’t going to be able to raise those kind of monies if it’s a I-AA or if it’s a Division II at our home. But we jumped at the opportunity to get this revenue that those two games are going to give us.

“(A flight to a game) is rare. It’s the first one since I’ve been here. We drove to all of them last year. We had one game that was very far, all the way down in New Orleans that was a mess. Obviously, you get the revenue from the big-money game, so you’ve got the ability to go ahead and get that charter (flight). I’m used to that. (Davenport played collegiately at Georgia Tech.) That’s what you want your kids to get used to. Hopefully when we’re where we want to be, it won’t be that big a deal. But right now, everybody’s excited about.

“(Our fans) are apprehensive. They love our guys. It’s almost like a parent when you see your child going up against a bigger guy, there’s some apprehension there. But we talk with our guys about being in the arena and not listening to the naysayers that are not in that arena with you. So we really don’t take a lot of input from people that are on the outside.

“Obviously, we’re not the first I-AA program that’s tried to tackle that mountain (of playing a I-A program), and in most cases they’ve fallen up short, but that’s the beauty of sport. You always have that Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson moment. You just never know, but we want to see where we’re going to be in terms of matching up one on one with whoever is matching up across from you. That’s the message that we’ve put forth to our players — ‘It’s really about a one-on-one matchup. Don’t look at it in terms of Savannah State vs. Oklahoma State. How about just taking the challenge of being better than the guy in front of you that night and seeing where you stand?’”



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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›