Shame on col­lege foot­ball for lack of black coaches

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY PAUL NEW­BERRY

Col­leges around the coun­try wrapped up their foot­ball sign­ing classes this week, proudly tout­ing scores of African-Amer­i­can ath­letes as the next big stars.

It’s a whole dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion on the side­line.

Seg­re­ga­tion still rules the coach­ing ranks. And not just the top guys.

A re­view of all 130 Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion schools found shock­ingly low num­bers, with blacks still largely shut out of head coach­ing po­si­tions and, to an even greater de­gree, the prime co­or­di­na­tor spots.

While the NFL has come un­der fire for its lack of mi­nor­ity coaches, the sit­u­a­tion ap­pears more dire at the col­lege level.

Frankly, there’s lit­tle rea­son to be­lieve the sport will ever be­come more in­clu­sive be­yond the field, even though roughly half the play­ers are AfricanAme­r­i­cans.

“Col­lege coaches are ex­pected to fund-raise and schmooze with alumni as well as coach,” said Mark Nai­son, a pro­fes­sor of African Amer­i­can Stud­ies and His­tory at Ford­ham Univer­sity. “The rich alumni, most of whom are white, feel more com­fort­able with peo­ple who look like them. So long as alumni dol­lars drive col­lege foot­ball fund­ing, white coaches will have a huge hir­ing ad­van­tage. ” This much is clear:

Black coaches are less A likely to be hired as a head coach, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor or de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor.

Black coaches rarely

A get a chance to shine at the most prom­i­nent schools.

Black coaches gen­er­ally A get a shorter time-frame to prove their coach­ing skills.

Black coaches s find it A more dif­fi­cult get­ting a sec­ond chance if things don’t work out in their ini­tial jobs.

At col­lege foot­ball’s top level, there are 13 AfricanAme­r­i­can head coaches at FBS schools, down from 15 two years ago and roughly in line with the NFL’s puny num­bers (three out of 32).

The rates are down­right alarm­ing when it comes to of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors, who make up the prime pool of can­di­dates for fu­ture head coach­ing jobs.

Only seven FBS schools have an African-Amer­i­can run­ning the of­fense, while four oth­ers have black coaches who carry the co-co­or­di­na­tor ti­tle. Those num­bers are es­pe­cially trou­bling in to­day’s world of high-scor­ing spread of­fenses, which means those call­ing the plays are of­ten the hottest coach­ing prospects.

The mi­nor­ity num­bers are higher on the de­fen­sive side of the line, but still show an ap­palling lack of di­ver­sity. There are 16 African-Amer­i­can co­or­di­na­tors, with an­other six black coaches listed as co-co­or­di­na­tors (in­clud­ing job-shar­ing be­tween two coaches of color at both Ari­zona State and Char­lotte).

Amaz­ingly, Rice is the only FBS school that has African-Amer­i­cans in both co­or­di­na­tor spots. Jerry Mack is in charge of the of­fense and Brian Smith runs the de­fense for head coach Mike Bloom­gren, who is white.

The Pac-12 has the great­est head-coach­ing di­ver­sity of any con­fer­ence, with African Amer­i­cans hold­ing five of 12 po­si­tions. There are three black head coaches in the 14-team Big Ten.

Be­yond that, the Power Five head-coach­ing jobs al­most en­tirely are white. There is one head coach of color in the 14-team SEC (Van­der­bilt’s Derek Ma­son), one in the 14team ACC (Syra­cuse’s Dino Babers) and none in the 10-school Big 12.

In fact, the only co­or­di­na­tor of color in the en­tire Big 12 is Kasey Dunn, who is bira­cial. He was re­cently pro­moted to run Ok­la­homa State’s of­fense next sea­son.

Among the next tier of schools, known as the Group of Five, the num­bers are more mi­nus­cule. Just three of 65 head coaches are African-Amer­i­can: Jay Norvell at Ne­vada (Moun­tain West), Thomas Ham­mock at North­ern Illi­nois (Mid-Amer­i­can) and Wil­lie Tag­gart at Florida At­lantic (Con­fer­ence USA).

There are no black head coaches in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence or the Sun Belt.

Norvell spent 31 years as an as­sis­tant coach, go­ing through count­less in­ter­views for head coach­ing jobs, be­fore Ne­vada fi­nally gave him a chance at age 53.

Af­ter en­dur­ing a 3-9 mark in his in­au­gu­ral sea­son, Norvell guided the Wolf Pack to bowl ap­pear­ances the last two sea­sons.

“Most schools in­ter­view a mi­nor­ity can­di­date,” Norvell told the Reno Gazette Jour­nal shortly be­fore his first game in 2017. “A lot of times I felt like I was that guy, the guy they had to in­ter­view, and at the end of the day they weren’t re­ally se­ri­ous about hir­ing me.”

That has be­come a fa­mil­iar com­plaint re­gard­ing the “Rooney Rule,” the NFL’s bal­ly­hooed but deeply flawed at­tempt to bol­ster mi­nor­ity num­bers in the coach­ing ranks.

Pro teams are re­quired to in­ter­view at least one mi­nor­ity can­di­date for head coach­ing jobs, but it’s clear that many teams are sim­ply go­ing through the mo­tions with the in­ten­tion all along of hir­ing a white coach.

There is no such rule at the col­lege ranks, not that it would likely do any good.

Norvell can at­test to that. He took part in plenty of sham in­ter­views be­fore some­one fi­nally looked at him as a le­git­i­mate prospect.

“That be­comes frus­trat­ing as a can­di­date be­cause you don’t want to go through the process un­less you’re be­ing taken se­ri­ously,” he said. “There were sev­eral of those I went through, but we just have to keep push­ing.”

The most prom­i­nent schools are even less in­clined to put a black coach in charge of their pro­gram. There are ex­cep­tions – Ty­rone Willing­ham at Notre Dame, Char­lie Strong at Texas, Tag­gart at Florida State – but AfricanAme­r­i­cans usu­ally face huge ob­sta­cles when they land a head job.

The most glar­ing ex­am­ple is at Van­der­bilt, where Ma­son has lit­tle chance of se­ri­ously com­pet­ing in the mighty SEC. The Com­modores have just man­aged just seven win­ning sea­sons over the past 60 years.


Stan­ford’s David Shaw is one of too few African-Amer­i­can head coaches at the FBS level.


Col­leges around the coun­try fin­ished off their foot­ball sign­ing classes last week, proudly tout­ing scores of African-Amer­i­can ath­letes as their next big stars. Van­der­bilt’s Derek Ma­son, how­ever, is one of a start­ingly low num­ber of black head coaches.

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