In NCAA Black Football Coaches are a dying breed


Ty Willingham deserved to be let go by Washington, in contrast to his unceremonious demise at Notre Dame.

If Sylvester Croom hadn’t resigned at Mississippi State, he would have rightly been fired.

And Ron Prince, well he just didn’t get it done at Kansas State.

But everybody gets fired in college football, why not give more brothers the chance?

Black coaches, as with African-Americans throughout the workplace, get what’s coming to them. There are few breaks, there are no handouts, and there’s absolutely no room for error.

With the departure of the 3 coaches above, there are only 3 black coaches left at 117 Division I-A schools. They include Kevin Sumlin who just finished his first year at Houston, Turner Gill finishing his 3rd season at Buffalo, and Randy Shannon at Miami. Of the three, only Shannon coaches at a BCS school. It’s the lowest number of black coaches in the NCAA in 15 years.

One of the arguments I read is that “no AD in the country would turn down a black coach for a job if he was qualified.” That’s the type of myth that’s perpetrated in corporate offices nationwide. And it’s not just about black coaches who are qualified, it’s about white coaches who are not.

Take Lane Kiffin for example. The new coach of the Tennessee Volunteers is coming off an underwhelming stint as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. In 20 games in Oak Town, Kiffin amassed a whopping 5 wins. What does that great track record get you? An interview with Clemson and a hired by Tennessee.

In a letter sent by e-mail to Tennessee fans from athletic director Mike Hamilton, Kiffin’s qualifications are outlined:

  • Lane was the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, spending the past two years with the Oakland Raiders. (so what?)
  • Offensive assistant from 2001-04
  • Passing game coordinator in 2004
  • Offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator for 2005 and 2006.

Did I mention who Lane’s dad is? Tampa Bay Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The senior Kiffin has been an NFL assistant for 26 years and with the Bucs for thirteen. There are rumors that Monte will join his son Lane at Tennessee next season. How’s that for nepotism?

Meanwhile Turner Gill inherited a Buffalo team that had won 10 games in their first seven years in Division I-A. This year, Gill’s Bulls will make their first ever appearance in the MAC Championship game. Win or lose, Buffalo will also make their first trip to a bowl game.

gill.jpgBefore taking the job at Buffalo, Gill was an assistant coach at Nebraska from 1992-2004 under Tom Osborne and Frank Solich. He worked with quarterbacks up until ’02, and was named assistant head football coach in 2003.

Last year, Gill was mentioned as a potential head coach for the Cornhuskers, and for that matter the Texas A&M Aggies. I was all for Gill based on his credentials at Nebraska and Buffalo, but it wasn’t until this year that I found out he was black. There are Turner Gills all over the country being passed over for Wayne Kiffins, or better yet, Chris Rocks favorite coach punching bag – Dave Wannstedt.

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • 50% of college football players (Division I-A) are black
  • 25% percent of assistant football coaches are black
  • 13% percent (34) of FBS offensive and defensive coordinators are African-American. Thirteen coordinators have two years or less experience in their position.

Source: Bleacher Report

If the offensive and defensive coordinator pool is not deepened, then there will be no black coaching candidates to choose from. The Bleacher Report estimates that when factoring out those black coordinators whose teams are not performing well, there are only nine of them that have a good shot an being promoted to head coach.

mike-tomlin.jpgAnd to break that down ever further, it’s rare that you see a black offensive coordinator in the college or pros. Pittsburg’s Mike Tomlin, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Indy’s Tony Dungy, and Cleveland’s Romeo Crenell were all defensive coordinators before they became head coaches. So was Chicago’s Lovie Smith (and 49ers interim coach Mike Singletary).

The sport that can’t award a true national champion can’t be trusted to improve on this dismal mark. College boosters like to see a guy they can relate to on the sidelines, and many black coaches don’t fit that criteria.

The same also holds true for the athletic directors making the hire. The 2004 Racial and Gender report card sited 9 black athletic directors at Division I-A schools. 95% of the jobs were held by whites. It will continue to be a struggle to get black coaches hired in the absence of black A.D.’s

Sure enough, if Croom, Willingham, and Price were winning, they would still have their jobs.

What was Les Miles reward for going 8–5, 9–4, and 7–5 in his last 3 years at Oklahoma State? Inheriting a fully stocked LSU team that he coasted to a national championship. His overall record at OSU was 28-21. White coaches can get better gigs or rehired for mediocrity, but black coaches better get it right the first time, if there is a first time.

This is an abomination, as is the BCS (that’s another story). Somebody has to beat the drum on this one.

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