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.

18 Comments

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18 responses to “Opportunities and mandates

  1. Bulldog Bry

    Bravo and well said. No one’s asking these guys to hire 25 minority coaches overnight. But make the effort to look because they’re out there.
    Also, in order to allow minority coaches to be successful, we must allow them to fail as well.

  2. RuDawg

    How many Hispanic, Asian, or Middle Eastern college football coaches are there?

  3. The Navy head coach, Rich Rodriguez and the fellow at Florida International are the only others I can think of.

  4. NM

    I agree with the goal, but the problem is that the Rooney Rule isn’t always applicable. For instance, when JoePa finally leaves, one of the guys that’s been as assistant there for 97 years *ought* to get first crack at the job (right?). So any minority interview would be an obvious sham, which does nobody any good.

    In most cases, though, it would be good to see minorities get more interviews. I’m thinking specifically about this year’s Texas A&M and Ole Miss hires. (Hell, in those cases, it might’ve been nice to see even a second guy 0f any race interviewed!) But since TAMU will be needing a new coach in a couple years anyway when Sherman can’t win enough games, maybe they’ll rectify the situation then.

  5. Bryan

    As a minority that follows sports, I think this is a total garbage argument. A lot of minority coaches would rather not get called at all then be the “quota candidate”. To think we are actually talking about interviewing someone because on the color of their skin blows my mind. Good coaches will rise to the top regardless of color and be hired/promoted accordingly. If you think a school would pass up a coach that could bring winning ways to their program based on color, you’re crazy! If the candidates are out there, they will get hired. There might no be many of them in the system right now, but is forcing them into it by creating a quota really the best way to go?

  6. Hobnail_Boot

    You’re right, what we need are more coaches like these ones who have a combined .361 winning percentage (52-92).

    Awesome argument.

  7. Hobnail_Boot

    ..and before you jump down my throat, realize that I’m not the one who lumped these guys together.

  8. tmc1

    I think Hobnail is right… Look at those winning percentages. I don’t think their are a lot schools who are aching to hire a coach wih 3X as many losses as wins.
    Color is not the central issue here at all…. Collge football is about winning and if a coach cant win consistenly (percieved or not) then he wont get hired.

  9. Good coaches will rise to the top regardless of color and be hired/promoted accordingly. If you think a school would pass up a coach that could bring winning ways to their program based on color, you’re crazy!

    It happens all the time. Maybe you can explain to me how Ole Miss could hire someone like Ed Orgeron while not even extending the courtesy of an interview to someone like Rodney Garner, who had a similar resume to that of Orgeron’s at the time.

    It’s not a matter of overt racism we’re dealing with here. It’s just that a lot of AD’s don’t even think about it. Getting them involved in a process where they begin to realize that they haven’t been as open in evaluation as they could be is a useful step, I think.

    And if a minority coach thinks he’s being treated insincerely by an AD, there’s nothing making him accept an invitation to interview, is there?

  10. You’re right, what we need are more coaches like these ones who have a combined .361 winning percentage (52-92).

    Awesome argument.

    Do I assume from the point you’re making here that all minority coaches make poor head coaches, or at least worse head coaches than do white coaches?

    We live in a world where Hal Mumme (career D-1 record: 40-66) gets head coaching slots at two schools after what happened at Kentucky. Do you really think there aren’t alternatives to coaches like that getting recycled?

    And, you’re right, it’s certainly a reflection on Sly Croom’s coaching ability that he didn’t have MSU bowl eligible from the get-go. After all, Jackie Sherrill left that program in such terrific shape when he departed.

  11. Hobnail_Boot

    Do I assume from the point you’re making here that all minority coaches make poor head coaches, or at least worse head coaches than do white coaches?

    My point is that they’re subpar coaches. I could care less what their ethnicity is.

  12. So why do you believe that speaking with more minority coaches will generate “more coaches like these”?

    If there are qualified minority candidates out there, shouldn’t they have the opportunity to interview?

  13. Will

    I don’t think you can make the argument that all of these coaches are sub-par until you put them in reasonable situations and see how well they do. I don’t think there are a lot of coaches out there who envy the positions these coaches are in. Put Randy Shannon in at Miami in 2001 instead of now and then judge him. Put Sly Croom at Alabama instead of Miss. St. 4 years ago and then judge him.

    The point is, there are plenty of non-minority coaches that stink up the joint as well (Charlie Weis, anyone?) so if the ADs and presidents aren’t going to make a concerted effort to hire fairly and impartially, someone might need to make them.

  14. The point is, there are plenty of non-minority coaches that stink up the joint as well (Charlie Weis, anyone?) so if the ADs and presidents aren’t going to make a concerted effort to hire fairly and impartially, someone might need to make them.

    Which is the essence of the argument in my post. Better that the presidents and ADs come up with reasonable steps that would lead to greater minority participation than to have it imposed on them by the Feds…

  15. HVLDawg

    Senator…thanks for the dialogue.

    For 25+ years SEC football has been competed by a majority of black players. Look at how white the entire SEC coaching staff is – assistants and all. Something’s going on.

  16. Hobnail_Boot

    I think you and I agree at the core, Senator. I just take issue with anyone lumping the current black head coaches together. When lumped together, they are ‘black coaches’.

    Reminds me of the whole ‘black quarterback’ thing a while back with Doug Williams. Now you rarely hear that any more. The question as it pertains to head coaches in football is what will it take for us to get to the point where we are today w/r/t ‘black quarterbacks’?

  17. Bryan

    No matter what perceived issues there are with the racial makeup of coaches in college football, mandating a team interview somone because of the color of their skin is simply wrong. I can’t believe we’re even talking about it. What’s next – mandating teams must interview one black, one white, one asian, one hispanic, one native american, etc.? Attempting to fix perceived racial inequalities is a slippery slope I don’t think we need to head down. With that said, should all coaches regardless of color be given a fair opportunity at a position? Absolutely. Forcing a quota candidate on a team is no way to go about this however.

  18. Forcing a quota candidate on a team is no way to go about this however.

    Bryan, the point here is that if the schools agree to it, they’re not being forced. If Congress votes to make them do it, a la Title IX, they are.

    Which do you think is better for the schools and the coaches?