Black College Football Head Coaches: Hey, Now There Are Some!

↵A few years ago the NFL confronted a major issue with its coaches: ↵every one of them was white except when Art Shell and Al Davis were in the love-y phase of their relationship. The Rooney Rule was instituted and a bunch of black guys were hired and the issue seems to be mostly settled now. ↵

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↵In college football, though, the problem remains. After Ty Willingham and Ron Prince got axes in 2008, Division I-A was down to all of four black head coaches. With 119 programs to the NFL's 32 franchises, that's the equivalent of having one black head coach in the NFL. What's more, three of those guys were at dead-end programs. Sylvester Croom was at perpetually moribund Mississippi State. Turner Gill was at MAC deadweight Buffalo, and Kevin Sumlin was at Houston. The single BCS program with any prestige whatsoever sporting a black coach was Miami, which hired former player Randy Shannon mostly because he was cheap. ↵

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↵Even if you're the kind of person who looks upon the outraged soundbite as one of the worst things in history, it's impossible to disagree with this instance of the form: ↵

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↵⇥The researchers polled all 119 universities in the bowl subdivision, asking the ethnicity of coaches, athletic directors, presidents, faculty, players and NCAA faculty representatives. According to the report, 56% of college athletes are minorities while 91% of athletic directors and presidents are white. Minority representation in all categories increased last year by less than 1%. ↵⇥

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↵⇥"I found it appalling. It's extremely disturbing in light of the fact there are a wealth of African American coordinators and a vast majority of football players are African American," said Charlotte Westerhaus, the NCAA's vice president for diversity and inclusion. ↵⇥

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↵I mean… dang. There's a reason a quick google search turns up article ↵after ↵article ↵that adopts that tone. After the firings in 2008, the outrage was palpable. The subtext of every "why ↵can't Charlie Strong get a job?" article was "that's ↵racist," and when Turner Gill was passed over for Gene Chizik for the Auburn job, Charles Barkley dispensed with the sub- part and flat ↵out called the hire racist. Black coaches were doomed, permanently. ↵

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↵Then this year happened. Who knows why? Maybe the Chizik hire was the coach-hiring equivalent of Houston Nutt's 37-member Ole Miss recruiting class that forced the SEC to implement a cap on the number of LOIs their schools can sign: a breaking point. Because, for whatever reason, this offseason was probably the kindest to minority coaches ever. ↵

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↵A dossier: ↵

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  • Ruffin McNeill was hired at his alma mater ECU after being promoted to interim head coach in the aftermath of the bizarre Trapped in the Closet stuff at Texas Tech.
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  • Larry Porter went from LSU running backs coach to Memphis head coach. Porter is also going back to his alma mater.
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  • Willie Taggart also went from running backs coach to a head coach, returning to Western Kentucky to head up the Hilltoppers. Yes: alma mater.
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  • Joker Phillips ascended to the top spot at UK—shockingly, his alma mater—when Rich Brooks stepped down.
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  • Mike London is in at Virginia after three stints at UVA under Al Groh. In a shocking turnaround, he's actually leaving his alma mater—Richmond—to take the job.
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  • Charlie Strong finally put an end to all the "why not hire Charlie Strong?" articles by getting hired at Louisville.
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  • Turner Gill parlayed his stint at Buffalo—during which he turned the Bulls from the worst team in D-I to an average MAC team—into a decent BCS job at Kansas.
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↵That is a stunning-in-context seven minority hires in one offseason, six of which add new coaches to the I-A ranks. And most of these teams are not the sort of dead-end jobs black coaches often get—those often seem like hires by administrations at the end of their rope seeking something, anything to generate positive media coverage. These are basically legit jobs. ECU is a two-time defending C-USA champ. ↵Louisville, Kansas, and Virginia are all competitive BCS teams. Even UK is on a nice streak of bowl years. Only Taggart seems destined for many, many losses. ↵

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↵So… like… good. Black coaches are still vastly underrepresented, though, and any praise should come with a standard Chris Rock ↵disclaimer: that's what you're supposed to do. What do you want, a cookie? (It's the Michael Scott/The Office version, which is at least more SFW than Chris Rock's.) ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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