Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lack of African American college head coaches is a result of racism


One of the biggest travesties in American sport that flies under the radar in mainstream media is the lack of African American head coaches in Division IA football. Of the 119 head coaches in big time football just four are African American. Randy Shannon of Miami, Kevin Sumlin at Houston, Mike Locksley at New Mexico and Turner Gill Buffalo are it.

According to statistics gathered by Richard Lapchick at University of Central Florida 48 percent of the players and just 3 percent of the head coaches are African Americans.

Are you kidding me?

This is blatant racism yet few are willing to consistently put this matter in the forefront to ignite constructive dialogue that will induce change.

The few African Americans who have been extended opportunities to coach have been held to higher standards then their white counterparts. The preeminent example of latter is how Notre Dame handled Tyrone Willingham five years ago. After Willingham’s third year as head coach of the Irish he posted a 6-5 record and was fired. He’d compiled a 21-15 record in his three year tenure.

Notre Dame turned to the “Great White Hope” Charlie Weis to succeed Willingham. After three years Weis posted a 22-15 record-virtually the same as Willingham’s record. In Weis’ third year he set school records for losing in posting a 3-9 season. To date Weis’ record is 34-31.

Is his record worth the reported 4.3 million Weis earns?

No head football coach in Notre Dame’s history has been fired during their contract: interesting how Willingham was the first African American head coach in school history hired and the fastest fired.

Bottom line: Willingham was held to higher standard than Weis and race was a large component. It can’t be explained with objective logic how one coach (Weis) gets a vote of confidence for losing while the other (Willingham) gets canned for winning.

Then there’s Ron Prince who was hired by Kansas St. in 2006. Prince, like Willingham, was let go at after three seasons. Prince, like Willingham, coached his team to a bowl game in his first season. His team beat the Texas Longhorns in 2006 and 2007. Prince also compiled the second most wins in team history for first two years as head coach. But after a lackluster third year Prince was shown the door.

You want more?

When the Auburn head coaching job became available last year current Buffalo head coach Turner Gill emerged as the leading candidate. Instead Auburn turned to Gene Chiznik who posted a blazing 5-19 record in his last two seasons at Iowa State. Gill during the same time posted a 13-13 record (8-6 last season) and coached his team to its first MAC title and a bowl appearance.

Former Auburn basketball standout and NBA great Charles Barkley had this to say. “I think race was the number factor. You can say it’s not about race, but you can’t compare the two resumes (Chiznik) deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chiznik probably had the worse resume.”

Furthermore Gill felt he didn’t get the job is because his wife is white. I guess some things in the South have progressed yet on some levels things seemingly remain the same.

I guess Gill couldn’t make the connection because of his complexion.

I was shocked yesterday when I viewed ESPN’s First Take. Analyst Stephen Bardo suggested the lack of African Americans head coaches isn’t a result of racism. Bardo suggests it has more to do with who you know.

Again, are you kidding me?

Knowing people, as Gill suggests is merely a component of institutionalized racism. It’s not “the” reason why African Americans are snubbed from coaching posts. The basis of racism is about having the ability to control and anoint which ultimately robs African Americans and the underprivileged of opportunities.

Perhaps Bardo is afraid to tell the truth or he just doesn’t know. Let’s take this matter from the root to the fruit.

America is based on capitalism. The rise of American slavery is the preeminent example of capitalism which was the birth of racism. From slavery until the present those historically who’ve controlled the economics have also controlled the legislation and socialization of this country. That power is invested in the hands of white males.

The same racist ideological framework exists in the realm of American sports. In collegiate athletics, in this case football, nearly half of the players are African American yet over 90 percent of the schools presidents and athletic directors are white. The boosters who give the money to the schools are largely white. The latter isn’t a matter of knowing someone. It’s a matter of the power structure accumulating wealth in society and sports to taking care of their own. Hence the ability to anoint and control is byproduct of racism.

Let’s cut to the chase. We know about the annual reports on race from Richard Lapchick. We know there is a lack of diversity in collegiate athletics and American sport across the board. Despite having an African American as president there’s still a lot of work to do in society.

So when will the real work commence?

Consistent public pressure needs to be applied on officials at the top starting with the NCAA. Next, the athletes, African American head coaches and African American journalists with platforms need to use them. African American writers need to use their keyboards for change instead of fostering racism by not attacking it. The African American journalists need to really say how they feel instead of reading off prepared scripts like President Obama. If the wallets of schools are threatened they’ll surely listen and change will follow.

The NFL needs to get involved as well. College football is a farm system to the league. Take the Rooney Rule and extend it the collegiate ranks now. Two of the last three Super Bowls were won by African American head coaches. Diversity can work.

Now is the time to stop regurgitating the obvious and take constructive action. We don’t need more statistics and studies, we need results yesterday!

In short, it’s about justice and equality of opportunity on levels of society and sports. Now is time for those who profess to be for change to really be about change.

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