Obama’s next barrier: Football coach


The guy on the left is President-elect Barack Obama. The guy on the right is Turner Gill, head football coach at the University of Buffalo.

Pop quiz: Which of these two guys had a harder time getting the job they got?

I’ve seena lot writtenabout howwe’ve overcome some great barrier in electing our first black president. We’ve viewed thislike the four-minute mile or likehome run 756: something that was unlikely to fall has now fallen and we’re all witnesses to history.

However, in the wake of this achievement, Richard Lapchick and his folks at theInstitute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport were compilinga list of shame. In the world of college athletics, more than 50 percent of the athletes are minorities. That number climbs even higher in sports like football, which see much higher proportions of black players. In the top-tier (Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision or whatever you want to call it) take a guess how many of these teams are coached by black guys?

Four. Out of 119. Or about 3.36 percent.

(That number becomes a whopping six if you include all minorities. Special shout out toNavy’s Ken Niumatalolo as our only Samoan head coach in the FBS.)

If you do the math on our presidents (factoring in thatuntil the 15th Amendment passed in 1870, blacks couldn’t even vote, let alone run the country), we’ve had one black president out of 26 or 3.8 percent. (To hold Jude and his math love in check, I’m not going to claim statistical significance here. Let’s just say both numbers really suck and agree that 3.36 is smaller than 3.8 for the moment. ☺ )

This isn’t to underplay the accomplishments of the man I believe will be the Kennedy of my time: a voice of truth and greatness who inspires me to believe in my country once again. It is, however, a clear indication that there are still folks out there withthe mindset of Al Campanis, who once noted he believed blacks weren’t smart enough to do that high-level stuff, like running a sports team. (And from the “Apparently our marketing isn’t getting any smarter department, we’ve got this…) In looking atthe suit attempting to bankrupt the KKK, I found myself shaking my head. Forcing them to go belly up financially isn’t going to make these guys change their mind about race. (“What? We’re broke? Crap… OK, guess I’ll start liking the coloreds now…”)

This isn’t about Affirmative Action. This isn’t a call to “just go hire one,” as I once heard in a meeting involving the need to diversify a work place. This is about an imbalance that seems beyond absurd.

Approximately 12 percent of offensive and defensive coordinators are black and almost 31 percent of assistant coaches are black. Each year, we put out another trove of black athletes, who have learned complex offenses and defenses, worked under skilled coaches and can impart knowledge to the next generation as former students of the game. You can’t tell me that there aren’t enough folks out there to create an adequate pool in which we do better than 3.36 percent.

Last year, 30 black candidates were interviewed for 22 openings.

Only two were hired.

In my book, this is another clear indication we haven’t overcome anything yet.

7 thoughts on “Obama’s next barrier: Football coach

  1. As a counter to your argument, the percentage of blacks in the US population currently is (I believe) somewhere around 15 %. Percentage of “people of color” in the US are only around, if I can invent a number, something like 30%.
    Let me just also invent that people of color in pro sports are more like 60%.
    So the question is if the presidential 3.6% is more significant in light of the 15 or 30% than the 3.36% is in light of the 60%.
    And as Pansy points out, with Obama we’re talking one instance. And any statistic based on one instance is inherrently flawed.
    And in football we have to ask how many black quarterbacks vs how many black linemen. How many black owners. etc. Admittedly, a lot may be due to economics (how many black multimillionaires are there who could even buy a team with a sizeable bailout from the govt).

  2. Hey, Doc–there will be one fewer black college football coach after this year, too. Tyrone Willingham is out at Washington.

  3. Mostly OT, but anytime I see a mention of the four minute mile these days I think of it.
    Did you know that distance runners have progressed so far from 1954 Roger Banister and his four minute mile that in 1997, a Kenyan named Daniel Komen ran an eight-minute two mile? 7:58.61 First mile in 3:59.2, second in 3:59.4.

  4. Hi Earle,
    What gets me is that the recent world record for the Marathon is down to just a few seconds over 4 minutes per mile.
    I mean,to run 1 mile in 4 minutes was huge. But to run a whole marathon at that pace?

  5. This is a national embasrassment that is rooted in nothing short of institutional racism. Especially in the traditional Southern power conferences the Big 12 and the SEC.
    It will only get worse at the end of the season
    3 of the 6 black head coaches will be fired at the end of the season for the dismal performance of their teams
    Ron Prince – Kansas State 16-20 in three years, actually FIRED 11-7-08
    Tyrone Willingham – TO BE FIRED Univ Washington 11-35 in 4 years
    Sylvester Croom – TO BE FIRED Mississppi State – 20-37 in 5 years
    Only Turner Gill at mediocre 5-5 Univ of Buffalo looks like he will get a shot to move to a big time program at the end of the year. And that may only happen as the NCAA will want to save face and promote something positive about minority coaches.

Comments are closed.