In his first comments since taking over the 2-4 North Carolina Central program, interim Darryl Bullock said: “It’s been a whirlwind, meeting with the captains, meeting with the coaches. The transition has been fast, but time waits for one with Bethune-Cookman coming.”
Bullock takes over for Mose Rison, who became the first North Carolina Central coach to be let go in-season since the late 1970s. So, Job 1 was a goal-setting meeting with the team captains and staff — called at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday.
“The players were shocked by the change, but we have strong senior leadership on this team,” Bullock said. “They have done everything they have been asked. Our team captains got here in 2006, and just five short years ago we won the black college national championship. There is definitely a striving to restore the tradition.”
Bullock most recently served as assistant head coach at North Carolina Central, and considered the departed Rison a personal friend. He said the switch was sudden, but not necessarily unexpected in a results-oriented job like football coaching.
“It’s tough. It is. You develop a relationship when you work with somebody day in and day out,” Bullock said. “Being assistant head coach, I felt like I developed an even tighter relationship with Coach Rison. All you can do in this business is look forward, though, and not back. … In this profession, you’re always wary — especially when you have lost more than you have won.”
The Eagles moved up from Division II in 2007, and haven’t had a winning season since. North Carolina Central becomes eligible to compete in the MEAC next year.
[FORMER COACH Mose Rison said of North Carolina Central’s money woes: “We wanted to be Division I, but we were still running on a Division II budget. It made it very tough.”]
Coaching since 1989, Bullock has served as an assistant at Tennessee State (2005-06), Elon (2004), East Tennessee State (2003), Gardner-Webb (2001-02), New Hampshire (1999-2000) and Morgan State (1996-98). He oversaw the offensive line during four seasons for Rison, as well.
When questions seemed to point too often back to himself, however, Bullock deflected: “It’s definitely a challenge, but I don’t look at it as a personal challenge. The focus is on the program. It’s about sending our seniors out the right way. We have a talented football team, and we have every confidence we will perform well through the rest of the year.”
Some staff changes have already taken place, with Bullock switching linebackers coach Gilbert Wiggins to defensive coordinator in place of Jake Cabell — who will now oversee defensive backs. (Wiggins previously ran the Eagles defense in 2001-02.) Together with Bullock, who says he’ll take over playcalling duties, they’ll try to stop a two-game slide that includes a pair of fourth-quarter flops.
North Carolina Central returns home this week — good news, since the Eagles have claimed their lone pair of 2010 wins inside The Friendly Confines — only to face zippy Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference frontrunner Bethune-Cookman (6-0, 4-0), a program that is putting up league-leading numbers in almost every significant statistical category.
“The first thing we did,” Bullock said, “was hit the pause button on the DVD player. They are so fast, it’s just a blur. Our first concern is their speed. They definitely play with a lot of confidence and swagger. We are going to prepare fast so we can meet the challenge.”
Then, Bullock flashed a bit of self-depricating humor about Saturday’s foe: “I expect when they get off the bus, they will already be in no-huddle mode. I wonder if they go to the bathroom faster than anybody else. We’ll just try to take advantage of their aggressiveness on defense. It’s causing people problems in our conference.”
North Carolina Central has said it expects to conclude a coaching search by year’s end, and to make a hire by January. Bullock confirmed that he would apply.
“I have aspirations to be a head coach,” Bullock said. “I do consider myself to be someone who would be a candidate — but it’s a five-game audition.”