by Ron English, Published August 16, 2010
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
Media reports on comments attributed to me at the recent Mid American Conference Football Media Day have reached a point where I think it is important to clarify for the record my position and to shed a little light on my history.
A July 31st article in The Detroit News quoted me as saying:
"We wanted guys that had a father in their background. A guy that is raised by his mom all the time, and please don't get me wrong, but the reality is you've got to teach that guy how to be taught by a man."
The quote was an incomplete snippet of a lengthy conversation with a pool of reporters on my thoughts on our recruiting class. The comment was also made in the context of me providing insight into the first year of our program and the prospects for our upcoming season. It was NOT a conversation about my thoughts on the value of single-parent mothers or the vitally important role father figures can play in not only those situations, but others. Had it been a discussion on those topics, I would have shared that my twin brother and I are products of being raised by our grandmother, Mamie Blaylock. My mother (who was not married to my father) passed away when I was 18 months old. In addition, I would have spoken about several coaches and other men who played an equally important role in whatever I have been able to achieve as a person.
I hold a bachelor's degree from the University of California and a master's from Arizona State University. In December 2008, this great university (Eastern Michigan University) honored me by naming me its Head Football Coach, making me only one of five African-American Division I Head Football Coaches in America at the time (and one of only 13 today). To suggest I would dismiss or negate the critical role played by single-parent mothers-or men who serve as mentors in young men's lives-would contradict the very way I WAS RAISED, which would be absurd.
Throughout my 18-year coaching career, I have been privileged not only to have successfully coached several young men raised by their mothers, but to have personally been a father figure and mentor to many of them. Just one of many examples of which I am profoundly proud: Jimmy Verdon, a graduate assistant on our staff at EMU, was raised by his aunt. He overcame a learning disability. I recruited him, and he played for me at Arizona State. He not only went on to receive his degree, but enjoyed a career in the National Football League before joining our staff at EMU. In addition to working with our student athletes, he is currently enrolled in a master's degree program at Eastern.
As we work each day to give Eagle Nation the football program that its students, faculty, administrators, donors and alumni so richly deserve, be assured we will continue to attract the very best student athletes for this Institution. These young men will meet our standards of decorum and personal responsibility, regardless of the demographic of the households they were raised in.
Head Football Coach
Eastern Michigan University