Croom will take weekend to decide

Mississippi State offered its head coaching position to Green Bay Packers assistant Sylvester Croom on Friday, and Croom has promised a decision by early next week.

If the 48-year-old former All-American center at Alabama accepts, he will be the first African-American head football coach in the Southeastern Conference.

Croom spent Friday in discussions with university officials and is expected to visit Starkville on Sunday. He has long been considered a front-runner to replace Jackie Sherrill, who retired after the Bulldogs' 31-0 loss to archrival Ole Miss on Thursday night.

"It's my own personal decision. It's just me deciding what I want to do in my career," Croom said on Saturday from Green Bay. "I've got to think through some things. State's people have been more than good. I appreciate their interest."

Another top candidate, LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, removed himself from consideration this week.

At the top of Croom's criteria is the bottom line for every coach: whether he can win. Though Sherrill won the SEC West title in 1998, the Bulldogs finished 2-10 this season and have won only eight games since 2001. Not only that, the NCAA has begun an investigation of the program, and the specter of probation will loom over whomever Mississippi State hires.

Croom also must decide whether he can leave the NFL. He went to the Super Bowl as an assistant with the San Diego Chargers nine seasons ago, and he dearly wants to get back.

Croom has a history of winning. He earned one national championship ring as a player (1973) and two as an assistant (1978-79) at Alabama. Croom became a finalist at his alma mater to replace Mike Price last May, but the university hired Mike Shula.