Last Hired, First Fired

By Roland Rogers, CEO BlackAthlete Sports Network
Updated: December 1, 2004

Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder

NEW YORK, NY—As I sat stunned by the firing of Tyrone Willingham as Notre Dame’s head football, I couldn’t help but reflect on his hiring. At the time their football program was in shambles because university official, Rev. Edward Malloy had hired George O’Leary who lied about his academic and athletic achievements on his résumé and then in desperation, reached out to Willingham to save the “Fighting Irish”program.

At the time I thought it was rather odd match considering Willingham, although a successful coach at Stanford University, saw no synergy between the alumni which is predominantly Irish Catholic and an African-American except for the fact that Division I-A football is dominated by black athletes so maybe they felt Tyrone could come in and turn around a program so desperately in need of a winning season.

I perceived Willingham as being laid back and arrogant. A no nonsense hands on coach who wanted things done his way. He wouldn’t go to the prep rallies or suck up to those ego’s at cocktails parties with the ‘good ole boys’ who’s ONLY concern was reinventing a past that would evoke the memories of Red Grange, Ara Parseghian, Lou Hotz and the old Gipper himself, Ronald Reagan.

That’s why after only 3 years at the helm (the other coaches who preceded him got 5 years and had worse records) he was unceremoniously dropped kick out of South Bend faster than you could say the Pope is Catholic; even with a winning record, after the beating he took at the hands of Pete Carroll last Saturday night there was NO way on earth he would survive to coach Notre Dame’s first bowl appearance since his debut season.

The school accepted a bid to play in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 in Phoenix, but the coaching change put both the staff and the team’s participation in jeopardy. I wonder how the players will respond

The perception of black man coaching a white quarterback has to be a bitter pill to swallow; and in America, perception IS everything! I believe historically, race plays a bigger part in society than one might imagine in 2004. Surveying the media, it would appear they’re either in denial or playing the reverse race card.

For some, this coaching change wasn’t all about winning football games. With the dismissals of Willingham, Tony Samuel at New Mexico State and Dr. Fitz Hill at San Jose State, only two black coaches remain at the 117 Division I-A schools the ramification are obvious.

In 1988, Jimmy the Greek Snyder made his infamous comment which still ring true today: A reporter asked him what he thought of the civil rights record of pro sports. In a rueful tone Snyder replied that “whites were holding on to coaching jobs because, with blacks dominating the playing fields, management was the only role left for them”.

The media can sugar coat and skirt the issue all they want. From Art Shell to Cito Gaston, blacks have never been given an equal opportuntity to excel in the coaching profession unless you tow the company line and not make waves. College athletics is setting a dangerous precendent by blatantly condoning actions detrimental to society that far outweigh its benefits.

Miles Brand, we hope you’re listening…