There were cheerleaders and Panthers football players in the gym. There were also members of the media, including a local television news cameraman. Clark Atlanta University was naming a new head football coach and the feeling of excitement was in the air at L.S. Epps Gymnasium Thursday morning.
Willie J. Slater walked over to the podium, the red CAU Panthers cap on his head matched the tie he wore for the special occasion. Slater will take over what’s left of former head coach Tim Bowens’ program following a 2-8 season that included a 21-0 loss to Tuskegee Oc. 2, 2021.
“I’m excited about being here and being the leader of this program,” said Slater after thanking everyone from Clark Atlanta President George T. French to Athletic Director Dr. J. Lin Dawson to the university’s search committee. “The administration is dedicated to making the program good and I think that once the young men get there, they are going to understand that and see that.”
Discussing the road ahead for the program Slater compared it to being hit in the arm over and over again. Even if it’s softly eventually you start to feel it. “It’s not going to come easy, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. The Panthers return a lot of talent from last year’s team including junior quarterback Elijah Odom, freshman defensive back Adon Flukers and junior defensive end Shaka Brown.
Slater, a native of Coffeeville, Alabama, began his coaching career in Georgia before coaching at multiple high schools in Alabama.As a college coach he coach offenses at Troy State, North Alabama Jacksonville State and Temple University before taking over the program at Tuskegee in 2006. Slater amassed an overall record of 123-47 during his time at Tuskegee, winning seven Southeastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and being named SIAC Coach of the Year five times.
Before introducing Slater to the crowd Dawson said that typically press conferences for a new hire were “exciting” but for this one “We are more than excited. In 42 years of coaching, coach Slater has been the standard for excellence and winning football.”