Slight Progress for F.B.S. Coaches of Color
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 21, 2011
In a sense, we’re still treading water. There were 19 head coaches of color in the F.B.S. heading into this season; four have since been relieved of their duties. The first to walk the firing line was Mike Locksley, who was dismissed at New Mexico before the calendar turned to October. Surprisingly, Kansas fired Turner Gill after two seasons, though Gill has since landed on his feet at Liberty University – a perfect pairing of coach and university, it should be said. Gill, unlike Locksley, was dismissed for a simple reason: he lost too many games. From Sunday to Friday, Gill might have been the best coach in the country. Locksley failed on the field and off, making New Mexico’s decision an easy one.
Like Gill, Larry Porter was fired after two disappointing seasons at Memphis. Everett Withers carried the interim tag as the late-in-the-game replacement for Butch Davis at North Carolina, but there was few calls for him to become the program’s full-time successor. Not surprisingly, the Tar Heels and new athletic director Bubba Cunningham opted for Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora.
Only one of this quartet has been replaced by another coach of color. After nearly coming to terms with former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain – now the top dog at Colorado State – Memphis hired T.C.U. offensive coordinator Justin Fuente; he joins Florida International’s Mario Cristobal as the second Latino head coach on the F.B.S. level.
But the three remaining programs went the old-fashioned route. Kansas replaced Gill with former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who has tasted little success in the college game as a head coach or assistant. New Mexico opted for Bob Davie, who is 10 years removed from his own stint with the Fighting Irish. As noted, U.N.C. hired Fedora, fresh off his success in the Conference USA title game.
One year after a record seven minority coaches were hired on the F.B.S. level, only five of the 26 job openings over this year’s hiring cycle have gone to minority coaches; three of the five are black coaches, and only two of those three are newly-minted hires, not a coach moving from one F.B.S. stop to another. Yesterday, Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow – who is of Chinese descent – earned a much-deserved shot at running his own program at Hawaii.
Kevin Sumlin is merely swapping zip codes, though his hire at Texas A&M, now part of the SEC, marks a wonderful step forward for all coaches of color. Joining Sumlin, Fuente and Chow are Garrick McGee, who was hired by U.A.B., and Tulane’s Curtis Johnson, formerly of the New Orleans Saints.
Barring a last-minute surprise – perhaps Larry Johnson is promoted from within the staff to become Joe Paterno’s successor – the F.B.S. will enter the 2012 season with two fewer black head coach than at the start of the 2011 season, from 18 down to 16. There will be two Latino coaches, Cristobal and Fuente, and two Asian coaches, Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo and Hawaii’s Chow.
It’s a step forward: adding Fuente, McGee, Johnson and Chow makes it 55 coaches of color in the history of the F.B.S., even if the active total lost four coaches since the start of the 2011 season. It’s just not a big enough step forward, especially following last year’s record number of hires.
The biggest issue remains the dearth of black and Latino offensive and defensive coordinators. The Black Coaches & Administrators, a non-profit organization founded in 1988 with the goal of evaluating minority hiring practices in collegiate sports, wrote in its yearly “hiring report card,” issued in November, that it’s “as much who you know and who knows you as compared to what you know.”
Hiring practices on the college level are similar to “other corporate executive positions in America,” in short. According to the organization, the “critical step for assistant coaches of color is to attach themselves as individuals and eventually become coordinators and eventually become a head coach.”
Unfortunately, minority coaches make up only a thin slice of offensive and defensive coordinators on the F.B.S. level. According to the Black Coaches & Administrators’ November release, black coaches make up only 11.9 percent of all F.B.S. coordinators in 2011; white coaches compose 84.6 percent of all coordinators, in comparison, while Latino and Asian coaches combine to make up 3.1 percent.
The only minority coach serving as a coordinator in the A.C.C. is Locksley, who was recently hired at Maryland as Gary Crowton’s successor. Likewise in the Big 12, with Manny Diaz of Texas, and in the SEC, where Arkansas recently hired Paul Haynes as its defensive coordinator. The Big East has two, both on the defensive side of the ball: Cincinnati’s Tim Banks and Louisville’s Vance Bedford.
The Pac-12 has six coaches of color in coordinator positions, led by Stanford, which has a black offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, and a black co-defensive coordinator, Derek Mason. Purdue’s Gary Emanuel is lone minority coach serving as a coordinator in the Big Ten.
What’s the quickest road to a head coaching job in the F.B.S.? It’s simple: be a coordinator under a proven head coach – one with a solid track record – at a program with a consistent history of success.
Easier said than done, of course. The final Associated Press poll featured only five teams with a coach of color in a coordinator position: Stanford, U.S.C., Arkansas, T.C.U. and Houston. It’s difficult to see any significant progress in the near future until more minority coaches hold coordinator positions.
But don’t mistake less progress for no progress. Any progress remains a welcome sight; a decade ago, for instance, there were only five black head coaches on the F.B.S. level. That there were nearly four times as many heading into this fall provides evidence that hiring practices are changing – just not at the rate most believe they would, or as most believe they should.
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Tags: Curtis Johnson, Garrick McGee, Justin Fuente, Kevin Sumlin, Mike Locksley, Norm Chow, Stanford
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