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Former players remember Alcorn football coach Casem

NATCHEZ —Marino “The Godfather” Casem, former head football coach at Alcorn State University, died on April 25 in Baton Rouge. He was 85.

Casem became the head coach at Alcorn State in 1964 after coaching at Alabama State the previous year. Casem was named the athletic director in 1966.

During his coaching career for the Braves, Casem won seven SWAC football championships and posted an overall record of 132-65-8.

“At Alcorn State, it was very competitive,” said Robert Cade of Natchez who played for the Braves under Casem from 1967 to 1971. “Each day you had to be on top of your game in order to get playing time there. Casem was the type of person who believed in details, and he also had good people around him. As a result, success was in everything that he did.”

Cade, who is now pastor of Word of Faith Ambassadors Worship Center in Natchez, was a tight end when he played under Casem.

During Cade’s first year with the Braves, Alcorn State won a black college football national title in 1967. Then, the Braves were co-champions of the SWAC in 1968 with Grambling State and Texas Southern. The Braves won another black college football national title in 1968.

The Braves won the SWAC in 1969 and 1970 and claimed two more black college football national titles in 1973 and 1984.

Cordell Bailey and Orrick Dixon, both of Natchez, played for the Braves under Casem.

Bailey was a wide receiver from 1976-1978, and Dixon was a linebacker from 1977-1980.

Bailey described Casem in one word: “Discipline.”

“Coach Casem meant the world to me,” Bailey said. “There was no middle ground; he was straight up with you. He didn’t sugar coat it. His practice was set up as if you can get through this practice, then the game was going to be easy. Everything that we did it was about discipline.”

When Bailey played for the Braves, he said he remembers running wind sprints during practices.

During both Bailey and Dixon’s playing careers, the Braves won the SWAC in 1976 and were co-champions with Grambling State in 1979.

“From my playing career, I will remember beating Grambling State in the 1976 season,” Bailey said. “When you beat Grambling State, it was almost like you beat Alabama. Casem was always upbeat when we beat Grambling State or Jackson State.”

The discipline that Cade learned from Casem helped when Cade became a head basketball coach at Ferriday High School, Cade said. As a head coach, Cade won two state basketball titles for Ferriday High School in 1988 and 1989.

“It was all due to the discipline that Casem instilled within us when we were players,” Cade said. “I used the same techniques and discipline that worked on me.”

For his coaching efforts at Alcorn State, Casem was named to the SWAC Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Alcorn Hall of Fame in 1993

After Casem finished his coaching career at Alcorn State, he was the athletic director at Southern University from 1986-1999. Casem was the head coach for the Southern Jaguars from 1987-1988 and in 1992 as the interim head coach.

In his three years as head coach at Southern, Casem compiled a record of 19-14. Casem finished his coaching career with an overall record of 159-93-8.

Casem was named to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 for his coaching at Alcorn State and Southern.

“Casem did a lot to help us out,” Dixon said. “He had a certain standard that he wanted you to be at and he would push you until he got you there. He was a great man and he did a lot to help a lot of people.”