Number of African-American coaches remains unconscionable
Originally Published: November 11, 2008By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com
Let me guess: You never saw the story. Or if you saw it, you didn't care. Or if you did care, you don't know what can be done about one of the most depressing numbers in major college football.Four. That's it. Four African-American head football coaches out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision programs, the lowest total since 1993 and 2005. It used to be six -- whoo-ee! -- but that was before Washington pink-slipped Tyrone Willingham and Kansas State pulled the rip cord on Ron Prince's purple parachute in recent weeks. Do the math. Four out of 119 equals 3.36 percent (120 schools were studied, including one transitioning into FBS). That's less than you tip the worst waitress in the world. Now compare that to the other numbers published in a recent study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida: • 54 percent of FBS players are minorities (50 percent of those African-American).
Outside The LinesOutside the Lines will take a full look at the issue of black coaches in college football on Sunday, Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.
Gill is one of the surviving four. There's him, Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Miami's Randy Shannon. The proud. The too few. "I agree with you on that," Gill said. According to the recent study, co-authored by longtime diversity watchdog Richard Lapchick, there have been 199 available head coaching jobs since 1996. Only 12 of those jobs have gone to African-American candidates. This despite the ongoing efforts of the Black Coaches Association, the 1-A Athletic Directors' Association, Lapchick and, to some extent, NCAA president Myles Brand. "I guess, sadly, the numbers have been prevalent for so long, the issue has been out there so much, that people are almost callous," said Buffalo athletic director Warde Manuel, who hired Gill before the 2006 season. He's right. The numbers have meaning, but they don't. We see them, we shake our heads, and then we turn to the NFL box scores to see how Drew Brees did in our fantasy league. It's old news. Or more correctly, it's the same news. Nearly 20 years ago, then-Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson walked off the court before a game in protest of NCAA legislation -- Prop 42 -- that would prohibit partial academic qualifiers from receiving athletic scholarships. But here's the thing: Thompson has caused the anti-Prop 42 movement to reach critical mass. The legislation was overturned a year after its passage. "If you feel something is wrong, you act on it," said Thompson, now a radio and TV commentator. Just four African-American head football coaches is wrong. It's wrong because, admit or not, the unspoken rules seem to be different for minority coaches. Facts are facts. Willingham is the first and only Notre Dame football coach in the modern era to be fired before the completion of his five-year contract. His successor, Charlie Weis, had exactly one more victory than Willingham after three seasons. Willingham got canned. After seven games at South Bend, Weis got a contract extension that runs through 2015. Meanwhile, Prince "resigned" before the end of his third season at K-State. The trickle-down effect is that skittish university presidents and athletic directors can use those failures as an excuse not to hire minority head coaches. It happens, too.
Jeff Harwell/US PresswireBuffalo coach Turner Gill is one of four African-American coaches remaining.
I struggle with the why, to be honest. Why this is going on as long as it has. Why people who are coordinators in successful programs haven't had a chance to be a head coach, while others with less accolades, less records, get these jobs.
--Buffalo athletic director Warde Manuel
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