Black College Football Coaches Benched Too Fast
6 months ago
Struggling African American coaches get fired faster than whites with similar challenges.
Editor's Note: The views expressed in this op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of Loop 21.
Look up the job description for an NCAA Division I coach, and you may find something that reads like this:
B.A. or B.S. required, M.A. preferred. Demonstrated ability to successfully coach, recruit and organize a football program. Demonstrated success as a head coach is preferred. Coaching at the college level is preferred. Skills for the overall position include technical knowledge of football, strong communication skills, computer skills, as well as budget, program management, recruiting, and public relation skills. Must become NCAA recruiting certified and maintain a working knowledge of NCAA rules and regulations. Experience with the operation of a summer camp, alumni cultivation and fund-raising preferred.
Maybe such job descriptions should add one other detail: "Don't be black." Or at least, "Don't be black AND coaching a losing team."
Coaching college football has its up's and down's. Anybody that watches college football and knows simple math can tell you that when it comes to a struggling program, a coach needs at least three years to turn that program around, especially considering that coaches are responsible for recruiting players and that even the best players have to stay in school at least three years before they can move on to the NFL. But few black college football coaches are given that kind of time.
Last week, the thin ranks of black college football coaches became even thinner when the University of Colorado fired its head football coach Jon Embree after just two seasons. In those two years, Embree posted a terrible record having just won four games. So by football standards, yes, he stunk at his job. Prior to his hiring, Embree had never been a head coach or coordinator at the college level, causing some to believe that he was "hooked up" with the job simply because he played there during the school's glory years decades ago.
But, the story surrounding his firing isn't about the win and loss column specifically. It's about whether or not he, and other African American coaches like him are given a fair shot when times are rough.
In an embarrassing press conference announcing his firing, Embree gave the world a tearful answer:
Just one African American coach, Tyrone Willingham, has been given multiple shots to find success coaching an NCAA Division I football team. Willingham coached Stanford University, Notre Dame and then University of Washington. He was fired from Notre Dame after having a successful debut season followed by two losing ones. He then went on to the struggling University of Washington. The team remained in last place his entire time there. At the time of his firing, in 2008, there were just five black coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision.