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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Slight Progress for F.B.S. Coaches of Color

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Only one of this quartet has been replaced by another coach of color.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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  1. Burnt Orange says:

    The hiring above that concerns me the most is Sumlin. When he starts losing consistently in College Station, there will be some things said in the stands that will make you cringe and it is only a matter of time till the media picks up on this. There are still things said in the stands down there about their own minority players when they lose that are awful. This is a ticking time bomb.

  2. Kris says:

    Burnt Orange,

    After several bright spots of agreement over Paul’s writings this year…we have found a parting of the ways today – BIG TIME!

    Kevin Sumlin has been embraced by the Aggie family in an amazing way – Aggies could care less if he is black, white, purple or chartreuse. Rather, the Aggie faithful are fired up that he is FIRED UP to be there. Coach Sumlin has made a great impression with current players and, by all reports, is doing quite well on the recruiting trail, too. I will agree that if he is 25-25 after 4 years, there will be much grumbling – just like there was with Coach Sherman. Sadly, I will admit that some former and current students had ugly comments about Sherman in the stands…nothing to do with his color – more to do with his play-calling at times! I personally hated to see Sherman leave and would have donned my rose-colored glasses for another year because he was (and is) a man of great character that did wonderful things for our university despite the record. Having said that – it was the right decision (see Paul’s column about the question) to make a change and I am thrilled with Coach Sumlin.

    Though most writers and talkers in the sports world agreed with the decision to let Coach Sherman go…it was a great opportunity for the bashing to begin, and I read and heard WAY TOO MUCH about the race of Coach Sumlin being an issue. Richard Justice apparently went so far as to write that A&M wouldn’t make this hire because we Aggies are racist. I suspect he has not eaten those words, but I wouldn’t know because I won’t waste my time reading his garbage. It should be pointed out, too, that Coach Sumlin is coming BACK, to a place he and his family loved the first time they were there. (See article at: http://www.chron.com/sports/aggies/article/Texas-A-amp-M-notebook-Sumlins-no-strangers-to-2403759.php) Surely the Sumlin family has a better feel for the people of A&M and the Bryan/College Station area than Justice, the (UT grad?) sportswriter!

    Today, you make a similar indictment, Burnt, based on “things that will be said in the stands…” REALLY? This “evidence” is not strong enough to make such a hateful claim. I don’t know how many times you have been “in the stands” at Kyle Field, but I have rarely missed a game there since the day I arrived on campus as a freshman in 1977. I am confident, then, in judging the situation more accurately. Will things be said about coaches and players if the season goes the way this season did? Oh, yeah…and I hate to hear it because that is not my nature. BUT, it will not be anything that wouldn’t be (or isn’t currently!) being heard about Mack Brown by the Horns faithful and it CERTAINLY won’t be because Coach Sumlin is black, or blue, or polka dotted. Thank goodness, though, he is not Burnt Orange :-)

  3. Margaret says:

    Burnt Orange seems to be really good at pointing fingers. I am amazed that he feels that ugly comments are made in the aggie stands…guessing he has not sat at the tu stadium. Get real and focus and the good things in life and not the bad. Honestly I was upset to leave the big 12 but when people like burnt orange say the “stuff” he does, I am glad to not have to deal with that bitterness anymore. It is a GAME and keep it all in perspective.

  4. LonghornDoug says:

    As a UT graduate and “die-hard” Longhorn fan – I can only hope that Burnt Orange is really some idiot OU fan that is trying to get Aggie fans all riled up. I would be very disappointed if a true Longhorn fan would say something as stupid as Burnt Orange.

  5. 4.0 Point Stance says:

    As much as I hate to agree with Aggies about, well, anything, I have to here. UT fans like to think they’re a higher class than Aggies, but I’ve known a bunch of both, and there’s not as much difference between the two groups as you’d like to believe. The “Keep Austin Weird” types really overestimate how educated/wealthy/politically enlightened (however you define that) the average UT fan is compared to the average A&M fan.

  6. Burnt Orange says:

    Well I guesss I hit a few nerves. A few points, I believe I have been to 19 games at Kyle Field – not to mention three Cotton Bowls, one Alamo Bowl and a Sugar Bowl involving the Aggies. (I am married to an Aggie so I have to make some attendance concessions).Been dragged along to more midnight yell practices – mostly in Austin – than I care to count. Even been to a few fish frys in the summer. I like most things about Kyle Field- love the band.

    Now as far as what I have heard in the stands, it is not widespread, but it is there. Heard the same sort of things at Texas – particularly when Donnie Little was the qb in the early eighties. The difference is I no longer hear them at Texas.

    I will never get any of you to concede the point but will you at least concede that the Old Army Ags are a rather conservative, entrenched group that does not like change ? Can any of you honestly say that you have not heard an Old Ag say that A&M was ruined when they started letting women in ? Your institution is not as enlightened as you think – nor is the surrounding area.

    When I drive down Highway 6 to College Station, I know I am getting close when I drive by “Johnny Rebs Dixie Cafe” in Hearne. If I am wrong, and nothing of the sort I have predicted has occurred in the next 3- 4 years, I will come on here and admit it. If I am correct, you can rest assured that Richard Justice and other columnists will be all over it. I hope i am wrong – but I don’t think I am.

  7. Dane says:

    Burnt Orange, none of this finger pointing even matters because you are wrong about an assumption that you’ve been making as a statement of fact – I don’t think we will be losing in the next 3 to 4 years and I wouldn’t be shocked if Mack Brown was receiving the Greg Davis treatment about that time…(speaking of treating people well…)

  8. Burnt Orange says:

    @Dane – am happy to talk football with you. Realistically, where do you see your team in the SEC pecking order ? In the SEC West, I will give you Ole Miss and maybe State. In the East, based on the past two seasons, I cannot put you in front of Mizzou, but I will give you Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vandy though Franklin has Vandy on the move. I see you 9th out of 14.

    Also, who do you see as the qb next year?

    Finally, as much as I like Joeckel at left tackle, I wonder about Matthews at right tackle – do you think he can consistently handle SEC defensive ends?

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