Black Head Coaches: Where Do We Go From Here?

By Tony McClean
Updated: November 30, 2004

Tyrone Willingham

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — And then there were two.

With the firing of Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame, Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom and UCLA’s Karl Dorrell are the only black head coaches that remain in Division I-A college football.

When Willingham was hired three years ago, I wrote “Tyrone will definitely have his work cut out for him this year and beyond. However, the bigger question may be: Will he be allowed to finish what he starts at South Bend?”

It appears that it didn’t really matter what Willingham did at the Golden Dome. The powers that be have been salivating over the possibility of Utah’s Urban Meyer coming to ND for the entire season.

There’s no doubt that Willingham has struggled since his fast start, but any college football expert will tell that you need more than three years to implement a complete overhaul of your program.

Even Irish coaching failures like Gerry Faust and Bob Davie, Willingham’s successor, were given more than three years to hold the job. Yes, the scrutiny is higher at ND, but Willingham wasn’t given enough time to truly be in total control.

My colleague, Greg Moore, wrote earlier this week “It is just that if a Black coach wants one of the big colleges, he will have to do like his white counterpart. He will need to show himself approved to handle the job.”

I totally agree with that sentiment, but even Tony Samuels (34-57 at New Mexico State) and Fitz Hill (14-33 at San Jose State) were given more than three years to complete their work. When they failed, they were given their walking papers or either left on their own like Dr. Hill did.

I don’t think qualified black coaches should be given a handout when dealing with Division 1-A football. But to only have two black head coaches in a institution that blacks makes up more than half of the playing population, it seems to be a bit ass backwards.

The double standard that has and still exists in college and professional sports when dealing with the hiring of qualified black coaches is something that unfortunately remains to be the most perplexing issue facing the entire sports world.

Here’s something that may say it all. A quote by Malcolm X states “The worst thing any man can do is view his self worth through the eyes of his oppressor”.

There’s no doubt that Tyrone Willingham will resurface somewhere later this month. Ironically, the same day that ND let Ty go, the Cleveland Browns have named Terry Robiskie as their interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Hopefully, Robiskie’s second chance (remember, he succeeded Norv Turner at Washington) will offer some hope. Until then, the struggle continues.