Daily Archives: May 17, 2008

Opportunities and mandates

Wendell Barnhouse has a piece up at the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram regarding the appallingly low number of minority head coaches in college football.

And have no doubt about it, it is appallingly low:

The six African-American head coaches in Division I-A football teams for the 2008 season:


Coach School Yrs. W-L
Sylvester Croom Mississippi State 4 17-30
Turner Gill Buffalo 2 7-17
Ron Prince Kansas State 2 12-13
Randy Shannon Miami (Fla.) 1 5-7
Kevin Sumlin Houston 0 0-0
Tyrone Willingham Washington 3 11-25

Like it or not, Ty Willingham has it right.

“In this day and age, it’s a shame and an embarrassment,” he said. “We’ve gone too long with the numbers the way they are. We have to change what we’re doing. The good ol’ boy network is alive and well.”

He’s not asking for a hiring quota. He’s merely arguing for a college football version of the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” that requires management to interview a minority candidate when conducting a hiring search for a head coach.

“We need to find a way to get qualified minority coaches in front of the search committees, the athletic directors, the presidents,” Willingham said. “It’s not so much about hiring; it’s about creating opportunities. And it’s about hiring the right people.”

It’s hard to make that kind of hiring decision when you’ve never even placed yourself in the position of considering it. Agreeing to meet a minority candidate for a coaching job isn’t the same thing as guaranteeing that you’ll hire a minority candidate – nor, of course, should it be – but it shouldn’t be a cynical “all right, we talked to a black guy” exercise, either. What it should be is a first step in a long process to educate and acclimate athletic directors and college presidents to being open to recognizing that the talent pool has changed.

Judging from these comments, there’s a long way to go even with that modest step.

… Florida State President T.K. Wetherell pointed out that he’s “not sure you can legislate morality.”

“It’s like the bar room scene from Star Wars,” Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said. “You have public schools, private schools, different rules and regulations in different states. I think it would be difficult to have something like the Rooney Rule in college athletics.”

I think so, too, but not for the reasons Wetherell and White state.

What these guys don’t want to consider is that voluntary, internal change is almost always healthier for a group than having change imposed from outside. Which is amazing when you think about it, because they have to deal with the consequences of that approach every day.

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