Athens, GA (Dec 4, 2008) - Thanks to the largesse of DirecTV, I was able to catch Inside the NFL last night. During the "Phil's Peeves" segment, the subject of black college football coaches came up. Phil Simms and Cris Collinsworth could not agree on the same racial designation. Simms referred to them as "black" coaches, while Collinsworth went with the politically correct "African-American." But along with James Brown (JB), they were unanimous in agreeing that there are not enough black head coaches in Division 1-A college football. While no one can argue that the numbers are way too low, exception has to be taken as to the way the numbers are taken. Why? Because in the segment, JB stated that this is one case where "statistics do mean something."
JB: Go ahead. What were you saying?
Simms: Well, you know, This is a little more serious here. Of course, I watch a lot of college football, and I think the fact that there's only three Division I black head coaches is an
unbelievable pet peeve.
JB: That's a serious one.
Simms: It's an embarrassment. And I'm watching this week on And I'm just going, "They've got to do something and And immediately.”
JB: Mmmm. But, see, that's where numbers are important, because it does tell you,
historically, how bad a job has been done. And you know what? There are really no excuses for it. I agree None.
Simms: There's got to be a rule or a law or something instituted to make more colleges
Collinsworth: But But, you know, they just have to turn on a few brain cells. I mean, think about recruiting college kids. Now, you have you going in or me going in or James Brown going into these African-American kids' homes. That's who you got to get. I mean, let's face it. What is it 70% in the National Football League African-American? So, now J.B. comes walking in...[ Laughs ] ...and does his whole J.B. thing. You've got a better shot. I mean, it's just simple intelligence that would tell you "Well, maybe I ought to go find the best AfricanAmerican coach I can find.”
JB: And so that's where stats really do point out a real serious issue that needs to be
Collinsworth: They are true. Okay.
Source: “Inside the NFL” Transcript: Week 13, Episode 120308. Originally aired December 3, 2008. Courtesy Showtime Networks.
Yes, there are only 3 black head football coaches in Divion 1-A college football now. But to make a blanket statement that only three is totally unacceptable is slightly misleading. Until the past couple of weeks, there were six. Three of them lost their jobs because of poor job performance. This is no different than if ANYONE loses their job for that reason. There is, of course, the big question of why Notre Dame would keep Charlie Weis on when they had fired Ty Willingham after 4 years for an equally dismal record. There is also the hugely legitimate question of why Sylvester Croom did not get the Alabama job when he was more qualified than Mike Shula. Thankfully, Mississippi State gave him the job and stuck with him for five years. Should they have fired him, I mean accepted his resignation? If Mississippi State were a legitimate powerhouse program, probably so. But they are Mississippi State, the very definition of college football mediocrity in the Southeastern Conference, so why did he have to go? After all, he did take them to a bowl game last year.
There is one big factor missing from the discussion of minority head coaches in Division 1-A. What is happening in the pipeline? Where are the qualified candidates cutting their teeth and getting their experience? Are they getting the jobs in Division 1-AA, II, or III? How many minorities are filling assistant coaching jobs in Division 1-AA? Why are these numbers not being reported?
Let's look at some numbers in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
|SEC East Assistant Coaches |
|SEC West Assistant Coaches |
|Ole Miss ||4||44.44%||5||55.56%||9|
|SEC Overall Assistant Coaches |
But JB says that statistics don't lie. If that is the case, these numbers look pretty good on their face, with the exception that there seems to be a preponderance of schools that have a ratio of 6 white: 3 minority. But which coach, on the face of these statistics, has done the best job of providing opportunities for minorities? It was not just Sylvester Croom, but also Houston Nutt at Ole Miss. Can you think of any other state in this country where race relations have been as historically deplorable? Yet, these schools lead the SEC in coaching diversity.
Even then, you have to go deeper into the numbers. The logical stepping stone to a head coaching job is being an offensive or defensive coordinator. So the numbers need to be looked at deeper to see what opportunities are being forged there, if any.
Another stepping stone is coming from a winning program. If you do not work for a winner, chances are you are not going to be hired. So who is the biggest winner in the SEC this year? It is Nick Saban, and from a raw numbers perspective, he has the worst minority staff percentage in the whole conference this year.
Is it a long uphill climb for minority coaches? It sure is. But you cannot just give a job to someone because of their ethnic background. They need to be a proven commodity to those that will hire them.
Cris Collinsworth says it should be a no-brainer to hire black coaches because it would help schools close the recruiting deal with black high school athletes. This statement has to be taken with a grain of salt. High School Blue-Chippers want to play for a winner, no matter what their race or ethnic background.
So let's shift the discussion to what is being done to develop a diverse coaching pipeline. Let's not go into the facade of interviewing people to go through the motions when a school knows who they want as their coach. Let's give prospective head coaches of all racial and ethnic backgrounds opportunities/access to real opportunities, not just an exercise in paperwork.
Cris Collinsworth Photograph Courtesy of Inside the NFL.
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