No progress in minority hires
By Kelly Whiteside
Two years ago, there were 24 head coaching jobs available in Division I-A football and one African American was hired, Fitz Hill at San Jose State. Last year, there were 13 head coaching jobs open in Division I-A football and one African American was hired, Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame. This year, with 15 of the 16 positions already filled, one African American has been hired, Karl Dorrell at UCLA.
Instead of progress, there's a pattern.
"It's beyond troubling," says Richard Lapchick, director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida, and author of the Racial and Gender Report Card, an annual study of the racial and gender hiring practices in sports.
"I've heard athletic directors say that head coaching jobs are becoming million-dollar jobs and you can't make a mistake, yet they're hiring people in some cases who haven't had a proven record at a major Division I-A university. So where's the downside of that in taking a chance on someone who happens to be African American? It's the same story we've sadly heard for a number of years."
Nine of the 14 new hires never have been a head coach at the Division I-A level, including Dorrell, a former UCLA wide receiver and most recently an assistant with the Denver Broncos.
Despite strong efforts by the Black Coaches Association, which has called on colleges to fill at least 20 percent of head football coaching vacancies with minorities over the next three years, it appears college football will fall short of that goal.
Among the 117 Division I-A schools, are four African American head coaches: Hill, Willingham, Dorrell and New Mexico State's Tony Samuel, in his sixth season. Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who is African American, turned down a reported chance to coach Michigan State to stay in the NFL.
Of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences, the SEC is the only league that never has had a minority as a head football coach. Kentucky has yet to fill its vacancy.
In October, SEC commissioner Mike Slive sent a booklet, about three inches thick, to conference school presidents and athletic directors listing the biographies of every minority coach in I-A and the NFL. The SEC also is planning other initiatives and workshops.
"I think that right now our league is in the same position as other leagues that either have (no minority head football coaches) or one," Slive said. "Looking backwards doesn't move us ahead. I know this is an issue for the SEC but no more an issue for the SEC than for any other major conference. It is my hope we will have a black head coach sometime in the near future."
Though the SEC office has been proactive, Lapchick said outside pressure is needed as well: "I think the schools represented in the SEC have been some of the schools that have a history that reflects a deeply Southern culture that at some point was the bellwether of segregation. The SEC sooner or later will change. But it's just not changing other places, too. I don't think they feel the pressure they feel in basketball where the SEC schools have changed dramatically because as a national sports entity, college football hasn't changed. There is no huge pressure on the SEC to step forward. That's clearly what's necessary on this particular issue. We just aren't getting the job done to put enough pressure on to make things change fast enough."
Consider two highly regarded coordinators, Southern California's Norm Chow, who is of Asian descent, and South Carolina's Charlie Strong, an African American. Both have been prominently mentioned as candidates for recent openings. Chow, USC's offensive coordinator, won the 2002 Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's most outstanding assistant coach. His quarterback, Carson Palmer, won the Heisman Trophy. Strong, a defensive coordinator, has had standout defenses at South Carolina, Notre Dame and Florida.
Chow, a Punahou School alum and former Waialua High coach, was bypassed by his alma mater, Utah, despite connections in the state after spending 27 seasons coaching at BYU. Utah hired Urban Meyer from Bowling Green. Strong reportedly interviewed with East Carolina, which hired Florida defensive coordinator John Thompson.
"The only thing minorities need to keep doing is working hard," Chow said.