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Blakeney content at Troy, doesn’t ask what if
TROY, ALA. (AP) - Troy football coach Larry Blakeney works in a modest, cramped office, strolls around campus for exercise and is a regular at “The Pig,” a cafe at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store.
Though Blakeney’s post is a few football fields _ and tax brackets _ removed from the seven-figure glamour jobs of major college football, only Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Penn State’s Joe Paterno have led their FBS teams for longer.
He’s had a career that could have landed him one of those big-time jobs, and paychecks to match, but he doesn’t waste time wondering what might have been if his reputation hadn’t been tarnished following a stint as an assistant at Auburn.
Instead, Blakeney is preparing for his 20th season at Troy, having led the Trojans up from Division II to FBS and to the past four Sun Belt Conference titles.
It’s a low-key job in a low-key town in a state where college football is anything but; Alabama’s Nick Saban rakes in $4 million a year a few hours away.
Displaying his trademark humor, the 62-year-old Blakeney points out that there are benefits to his longevity at Troy.
“You sort of know where everything is, I guess. When you get to be my age, you need a good hold on how to get in the building and how many steps there are before you open the door,” he said. “There are advantages, because you get into a routine. And especially if you’re able to win and be successful along the way, that routine is one that you sort of want to maintain if you can.”
It’s worked so far. Blakeney has a 153-77-1 record in his only college head coaching job with seven conference titles and two FCS semifinal appearances before moving up to FBS in 2001. He has won back-to-back Sun Belt coach of the year honors and led the Trojans to a 26-3 league mark during the four-year title run.
Of course, all that got a fraction of the attention of Saban & Co.’s national title last season.
Blakeney has enjoyed enough success at each level on the way up to have possibly earned a shot at a bigger, more well-known program.
The offers haven’t come. Blakeney knows of at least one reason why: His reputation took a hit soon after he started at Troy following 14 seasons as an assistant at alma mater Auburn, where he played quarterback.
He was banned from contact with the university for his role in violations that led to NCAA probation in 1993. Former player Eric Ramsey admitted that he took money from Blakeney and other assistants.
The ban was lifted a decade ago, but Blakeney believes “there’s no question” the episode hindered him from being a candidate for a high-profile job.
“I harbor no ill will toward anybody, not even the guy that produced all this problem,” Blakeney said, referring to Ramsey. “Not at all. I still love Auburn and I still have a high regard for the University of Alabama. I’m not a hater of different people. I’m not the least bit bitter, not one iota.”
In fact, he seems quite content. Blakeney’s three daughters have graduated from Charles Henderson High School near campus and then from Troy. His wife, Janice, sells real estate in the town of 15,000, 45 minutes south of Montgomery.
By Tom Fitton
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