It’s amazing, really, how things can change in a month.
Just a month ago, the Fort Valley State Wildcats were 1-6 and appeared to be in shambles.
A first-year head coach had not yet been able to cure the program’s ills — mainly a lack of funding, a lack of scholarships and a lack of full-time coaches.
Those problems still are hovering over the program, but winning four straight games, including a win over rival Albany State and then a win over Kentucky State for an SIAC championship, certainly does add up to a good start.
Again, it is just a start, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
Kevin Porter took over a seemingly impossible situation when he was hired as Fort Valley State’s head coach during the summer. Donald Pittman did a fine job with the program and was one game away from reaching the SIAC title game last year. Yet, like so many before him in that position, he was fired when it seemed he was doing a good enough job to, you know, keep his job.
In stepped Porter, much too late to really expect to have any expectations in the first season. In stepped Porter, into a program with fewer than 10 scholarships — the NCAA Division II limit is in the 30s. In stepped Porter, into a program with more volunteer and part-time coaches than full-time coaches.
With all that hanging over their heads, the Wildcats started with one win in their first seven games and appeared to be headed toward a dismal season. But Porter preached patience. He preached buying in. He preached playing the best at the end of the season.
The Wildcats players did remain patient. They did buy in. They did play their best at the end of the season.
Because of that, they’re now champions, winning the conference title Saturday with a game that epitomized their season. They trailed by 14 points early. They trailed by three late. But they kept fighting and fighting and forced overtime. Then they went to double-overtime. And then they won the championship.
Porter deserves credit for taking the job in the first place, and he certainly deserves credit for getting the players to stay together and keep working to get a positive result. But the players deserve credit, as well. They could have quit. They could have said, “Enough already.” But they didn’t.
They worked through the program’s shortcomings and lack of resources and continued to push forward.
That’s impressive stuff. It’s championship stuff.