Marino Casem Selected as 2013 Trailblazer Award Winner

Marino Casem, best known for his coaching career at Alcorn State University, has been named the American Football Coaches Association’s recipient of the 2013 Trailblazer Award. The award will be presented at the AFCA President’s Kickoff Luncheon on Monday, January 13 at the 2014 AFCA Convention in Indianapolis. 

The AFCA Trailblazer Award was created to honor early leaders in the football coaching profession who coached at historically black colleges and universities. Past Trailblazer Award winners include Charles Williams of Hampton (2004), Cleve Abbott of Tuskegee (2005), Arnett Mumford of Southern (2006), Billy Nicks of Prairie View A&M (2007), Alonzo “Jake” Gaither of Florida A&M (2008), Fred “Pops” Long of Wiley (2009), Harry R. “Big Jeff” Jefferson of Bluefield State (2010), Edward P. Hurt of Morgan State (2011), and Vernon “Skip” McCain of Maryland-Eastern Shore (2012). The award is given each year to a person that coached in a particular decade ranging from 1920-1970. This year’s winner coached from 1960 to 1969.

“It’s an awesome feeling to be recognized by your peers. It’s an awesome feeling to be recognized by such an award,” said Casem. “It’s a tribute to not only me, but to all historically black colleges and universities and to the many talented student-athletes, outstanding coaches, motivated staff members, distinguished administrators and supportive fans who stood in our corner.”

Casem attended Xavier University of New Orleans where he played on both sides of the ball, as center on offense and as a linebacker on defense. Upon his graduation in 1956, Casem got his first coaching job at Utica College in Mississippi where he coached for a year and married his wife, Betty. He was drafted into the army in 1957, where he served for three years. Casem got his master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1962 and went straight to Alabama State to work as head coach for a year.

It was at Alcorn State University where Casem truly made a name for himself. Made head coach in 1964, with athletic director responsibilities added in 1966, Casem won his first Black College National Championship in 1968 and repeated the endeavor the next year. Marino would go on to add five more Black College National Championships while at Alcorn State, making his biggest statement with his squad in 1984. It was that team in 1984 that finished its season as the top team in Division I-AA with a 9-0 record, the first black college to achieve that honor. Casem maintained a high drive in his football program while with the Braves, ending his time there with a 132-65-8 record to become the all-time winningest coach in program history. Casem was awarded the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year award seven times while at Alcorn State.

Casem wasn’t just prolific on the gridiron, but also on the administrative end as an athletic director as well, overseeing the construction of Alcorn State’s athletics complex as well as the design and planning of its football stadium. He was also the athletic director when the Braves became the first HBCU to participate in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball playoffs in 1978. Coach Casem moved on to become the athletic director of Southern University in Baton Rouge in 1986, where he oversaw the Jaguars become a force to be reckoned with in the SWAC until his retirement in 1999. Under his leadership, Southern quickly became the top overall program in the conference, winning seven SWAC Commissioner Cups, six SWAC men’s all-sport trophies, nine SWAC women’s all-sport trophies and 62 championships. Casem even returned to the football field for three seasons with Southern, in 1987-88 and once again in 1992.

“This is the culmination of a good ride. I’ve enjoyed my days coaching and to be recognized is a great honor,” said Casem.

In addition to receiving the 2013 Trailblazer Award, Casem was inducted into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 1992, the Alcorn State University Hall of Honor in 1993, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1994, the Alcorn State University Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and, finally, into the National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006, not to mention a plethora of individual awards from several national institutions. It was through all of his achievements, as football coach and athletic director, that Casem earned his nickname, “The Godfather.”

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