HAMPTON — Connell Maynor talked about winning championships and educating young men and joked that Hampton University might need a bigger stadium to accommodate the crowds that will come to see the football team.
Maynor was funny, serious and blunt as a blackjack Friday at his introductory press conference in the Armstrong Stadium team room, just days after he was named the 20th coach in the program's history.
"I want to do all I can to get this program back to winning championships, the way that it's used to," Maynor said. "I think the last championship was '06. That's too far apart for Hampton and our tradition and what we want to do. So we're going to try to get it back to winning championships back-to-back, to-back, to-back, to-back, to-back."
Yes, he said six championships in a row. He spoke openly of winning not only conference titles, but national championships.
Such a notion was considered absurd four years ago when he arrived at Winston-Salem State, which was coming off an aborted attempt to jump to Division I and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. But the Rams went to the Division II playoffs his last three years and played for the national championship in 2012, losing in the final.
Maynor's teams went 46-5 in four years, and the Rams currently have a 24-game winning streak in the CIAA.
Maynor asked the audience if anyone knew which coach at an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) won the most games in a season. He let them know that he did — 14 in 2012. He also let them know that his WSSU 13-win season in 2011 is the second-most by an HBCU coach.
From someone else, those tidbits might have come across as arrogant. But his delivery is matter-of-fact and often playful.
"It's not cocky, it's confidence," said Maynor, whose confidence starts with his religious faith. "It's believing in your personal savior, knowing that you can do anything you aspire to do. That's not going to change."
Maynor's reputation for speaking his mind precedes him. Prior to the start of Friday's press conference, HU officials ran a short video compiled by a Winston-Salem, N.C., TV station that included some of his bolder, funnier sound bites.
"I don't bite my tongue," he said. "If you ask me something, if you don't want to know the truth, don't ask me, because I'm going to tell you the truth."
Maynor, 44, interviewed for other job openings — he also spoke to officials at N.C. Central about its vacancy this offseason — but said that he felt the time and place were right. In discussions with HU president William Harvey and athletic director Novelle Dickenson, he believes there's a shared commitment to excellence that he said must exist from the top down for coaches to succeed.
Maynor acknowledged the challenge of moving up from Division II to Division I. Recruiting is likely to be the most daunting hurdle initially, he said. He will have 63 scholarships, up from a maximum of 36 in Division II, and a different recruiting model. The Division I eligibility clock is different than Division II's, and the fight to identify and land talent is more intense.
Maynor hasn't settled on his staff yet, though four of his WSSU assistants attended Friday's presser and will join him. If present Rams defensive coordinator Kienus Boulware doesn't get the WSSU head-coaching job, he will come to Hampton next month.
Dickenson called it "a new day in Hampton athletics, a new day in Hampton football." Before introducing Maynor, he made a point to credit former coach Donovan Rose, an HU alum who has been with the football program in different capacities for the past 23 years.
"I wanted it to be said that we acknowledge everything Don has done," Dickenson said. "We have the ultimate respect for Don Rose."
Rose's teams went 25-30 in five years, and while the program trended upward academically in the past couple of years, the Pirates had back-to-back losing seasons, which prompted a change.
Hampton fielded the MEAC's premier program as recently as the mid-2000s, winning three consecutive titles from 2004-06. Since then, the Pirates are 37-40 overall, 30-26 in the conference, as South Carolina State and Bethune-Cookman supplanted them most recently.
Maynor intends to change that. He is a no-nonsense disciplinarian who demands that his players present themselves well. He held a player out of a game for wearing a tank top to the school cafeteria. He does not allow players to wear earrings to team functions or on campus.
In a random dorm check, he found several players wearing hats indoors. Not only did he make them run extra at practice, he made their teammates who were present run as well, because they didn't enforce the no-hats-indoors rule.
Following WSSU's most recent loss in the playoffs, quarterback Rudy Johnson was speaking to reporters when Maynor interrupted him to tell him to pull his pants up.
"You will not disrespect women," Maynor said, another of his edicts. "That's somebody's mother or sister. You wouldn't want anybody to disrespect your mother or sister. … If you disrespect women, you will be an ex-Hampton Pirate."
Maynor intends to win games and titles, but he is passionate about educating players. Professional football is a long shot, and a temporary one at that, he said.
"It ain't about football," he said. "It's about getting an education and that little piece of paper. … They can't take that little piece of paper away. They can take your car, they can take your house. I'm going to die, you're going to die, everybody living's going to die. They can take that away from you. They can't take that little piece of paper away.
"Those are the things we're going to focus on and get these guys to work toward. It's about education and we're going to win some football games in the process."
Fairbank can be reached at 757-247-4637.