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Connor tabbed to lead Tigers

Posted on Wed, Dec. 20, 2006, The State Newspaper

Connor tabbed to lead Tigers
Alabama A&M assistant helped coach SWAC champs
By PATRICK OBLEY
pobley@thestate.com

If you watched the SWAC Championship Game this past weekend, you saw the next football coach at Benedict College in action.

Stanley Conner, the offensive coordinator for SWAC champion Alabama A&M, was announced Tuesday as the Tigers’ coach, succeeding John Hendrick.

Conner arrived in Columbia fresh off Alabama A&M’s 22-13 victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

“I’m right where I’m supposed to be right now,” said Conner, who has spent 11 seasons with Alabama A&M. “We’re going to win now.”

Conner is inheriting a team that went 3-7 in 2006 but returns 10 starters on offense and seven on defense. A savvy recruiter, Conner was responsible for the recruitment of 35 players on this year’s Alabama A&M roster, including all 11 offensive starters.

Conner said he believed his background of coaching at another historically black college made him a better fit for Benedict than his predecessor, who came from the Division I-A level. Benedict competes in Division II’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“I’ve worked with Division I-A coaches before,” Conner said. “Sometimes, that atmosphere is not something you can get right there. It takes time to build that. You can come in with expectations that aren’t realistic.”

That said, Conner said he expects to win immediately at Benedict. He pointed to new Charlie W. Johnson Stadium, the wealth of returning talent and that five of the team’s 2006 losses came by a touchdown or less as indicators of future success.

“They were very close last year. I think it’s very realistic,” Conner said. “I’m not going to sell this program short by no means. I think we can win now, and that’s the attitude we’re going to take.”

After a playing career that began at Jackson State University and included stops with the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers and the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders, Conner joined the staff at Alabama State as a wide receivers coach in 1986. Other than a brief stint in 1997 as coach at Lanett (Ala.) High, Conner has been with Alabama A&M since 1994.

Alabama A&M has won five of the past seven SWAC Eastern Division titles before finally winning the SWAC championship this season.

It took Benedict less than a month to settle on Conner, who rose to the top of a list that included approximately 75 names.

“We just wanted a winning coach,” Benedict athletics director Willie Washington said. “We had no preconceived notions other than we wanted someone, without a doubt, that had at least been a coordinator or had head coaching experience. We also wanted a winning coach. We expect the same type of program here.”

A native of Mobile, Ala., Conner laid out an aggressive list of objectives for the next month. He expects to be joined soon by wife Tonya and his two daughters, Shelandra and Shequita.

Next comes a coaching staff, which Conner said will hopefully be in place before Jan. 21. Signing Day is Feb. 2.

“When I get up in the morning, Benedict will be on my mind,” Conner said. “I think these people deserve a winner because the commitment is there. This thing is going to happen.”

Source: The State Newspaper

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