The NCAA’s Shabby Record With Black Football Coaches

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: September 13, 2007

Tyrone Willingham

Tyrone Willingham

CALIFORNIA — Total commitment from our nation’s college and university presidents and administrators is needed to bring about a change in the National Collegiate Athletic Association head football coaching configuration.

History will record February 4, 2007 as the day when the first NFL African American head coaches competed for the Super Bowl trophy. Unfortunately, the NCAA cannot boast of such an event. In January 2008, minority Division I-A college head coaches will not even come close to winning or raising the Sears Trophy, a symbol of the National Championship.

It’s not because there are no qualified, nor talented minority coaches in the Division I-A field. Currently, African Americans make up 25 percent of the assistants in those same universities and colleges. This doesn’t could several black head coaches amongest HBCU’s. Somebody in these coaching ranks must be qualified.

The threat of an anti-discrimination suit from the famous defense attorney (the late) Johnnie Cochran in 2003 forced the NFL to start a diversity program while the NCAA continues to drag its collective feet. Last year, NFL coaches increased the ranks of Black membership from five out of 32 when the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Mike Tomlin, a former Minnesota Vikings defensive staffer.

The NCAA should take a page from the NFL rule book and install the Rooney Rule. Currently there are 119 Division I-A schools with only seven minority head coaches. The NCAA has added a subdivision of Division One schools (the number varies from 119-210). My alma mater, Southern Illinois, is a member of this subdivision.

The NCAA has increased its numbers to only three percent of African American head coaches. Norries Wilson at Columbia University is the first African American football coach in the Ivy League. Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State University is first black head football coach in SEC history.

Ron Prince at Kansas State, Turner Gill at Buffalo, Randy Shannon at Miami (Fla.) are all the first African American head coaches of their respective schools. Tyrone Willingham, now at the University of Washington, has two firsts to his resume.

He piloted the Stanford Cardinal to become the first black football coach in the history of the Pac-10 and was the first Black head coach in any athlete department at Notre Dame. Karl Dorrell, currently at UCLA, is the second African American head coach in the Pac-10.

The NCAA’s stalling has hurt hiring practices of minority candidates on college campuses. This is just one example of the NCAA’s double standards. What happened to Willingham at Notre Dame should never happen to any Black coach again.

Willingham is currently 2-0 with the Huskies, who defeated ranked Boise State 24-10 on last Saturday. The Huskies started strong last year too, only to fall flat at the end of the season. Many Washington fans and players are saying that won’t happen this year.

Coach Willingham headed the Fighting Irish football program to significant progress, making them bowl eligible twice. Notre Dame had not accomplished this feat in recent years.

He previously guided Stanford to many bowl appearances in his tenure at Palo Alto with four winning seasons in seven years.In 2002, his first first year at South Bend, Willingham recorded a stellar 10-3 record with a Gator Bowl appearance.

During his second year, he went 5-7, and his third and last year, 6-5. The Fighting Irish received a bid to the Holiday Insight Bowl in 2005. Willingham’s total record at South Bend was 21-15.

The request to terminate Willingham may have come from the Alumni Association, the Athletic Director, or from the president of Notre Dame. Willingham stressed education first and football second just as he had done at Stanford.

The Notre Dame administration should have been happy with Willingham’s insistence on academic success for the players. The question still remains: why?

Charlie Weis and Willingham now have almost the same record. Willingham had 21 wins in three years, Weis ha 19 wins in two plus years. Notre Dame has been outscored 192- 65 in their last six games, including their 0-2 start this season.

The Fighting Irish are currently on a six game losing streak including last year’s 41-14 Sugar Bowl defeat by LSU. Will Weis be under the same microscope as Willingham after this year’s projected losing season? This double standard continues to plague the NCAA.

Since the departure of Willingham, the Notre Dame Football program has hired two African American assistant offensive coaches. This enabled the university and the NCAA to skirt the issue of African American Head Coaches. Apparently African American coaches have to be better then their white counterparts.

This has been the historical benchmark in the NCAA. Please rent or buy the college football movie “Remember the Titans”, starring Denzell Washington, a black head coach who integrated a white high school football program. This is an example of true coaching advancement and something that the NCAA must achieve.

Take a look at The Rooney Rule. It has opened the door for men that would not have been considered or at least have an opportunity to interview for a coaching job in the National Football League. The NCAA can conform now or come kicking and screaming later.

The 2007 Super Bowl was the coronation of the Rooney Rule when Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts raised the Lombardi Trophy beating his buddy and fellow African American head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears. The NFL stipulation has changed the dynamics of head coaching searches throughout the league.

It has also been hailed as a success in diversifying the NFL. When Marvin Lewis was interviewed by the Cincinnati Bengals staff, they were so impressed that they hired him the next day. This would not have happened without the Rooney Rule.

Lewis would still be an assistant coach somewhere in the NFL. This is currently happening in the NCAA. Hundreds of African American assistants are waiting in the wings for a head coaching placements.

Coaches Herm Edwards (Kansas City) and Dungy agreed that the Rooney Rule works. Dungy stated, “There were probably only 15 (minority) assistant coaches back when we were playing (1980′s), and we are talking about one minority coach for each team. Some teams even had zero.”

Dungy became a head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996. Both coaches stated that you have to become a coordinator before receiving the head coaching job. Everybody has to pay their dues. The good news is that these numbers are so much better heading into the 2007-2008 football season.

//<![CDATA[ u003c/p>nu003cp styleu003d”margin:0in 0in 0pt”>u003cfont faceu003d”Times New Roman”>u003cspan>         nu003c/span>u003cspan>   u003c/span> u003cspan> u003c/span>Dr. Lapchick stated that the Rooney Rule nhad been such a success that he has pushed the NCAA to adopt something similar nfor its member schools. The NCAA must understand that schools or colleges do not nhave to hire minorities but they must open their doors to the interview process nas does the NFL. The NCAA must shutout the Alumni Association with their power nbroker tactics. They must begin a new chapter in college football. President nMiles Brand has to stop bowing to BIG SCHOOLS Alumni Associations and start the nreal process of hiring the best head football coaches available not their nbuddies or friends. u003c/font>u003c/p>nu003cp styleu003d”margin:0in 0in 0pt”>u003cbr>u003cfont faceu003d”Times New Roman”>   u003cspan>             nu003c/span>It has been 17 years since the first modern day (NFL) African American nHead Coach Art Shell, (Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders), to this year's dream of two nAfrican American head coaches in the Super Bowl. The Question still remains, how nmany years will it take for an African American collegian head coach to raise nthe NCAA Football Sears Championship Cup? With the Rooney Rule in the NCAA it ncan happen.   u003c/font>u003c/p>nu003cp styleu003d”margin:0in 0in 0pt”>u003cfont faceu003d”Times New Roman”>STOP DRAGGING YOUR FEET NCAA and MOVE INTO THE FUTURE. nu003c/font>u003cspan styleu003d”font-size:11pt;color:black”>u003cbr>u003cbr>u003c/span>u003c/p>nu003cp styleu003d”margin:0in 0in 0pt”>u003cfont faceu003d”Times New Roman”>u003cspan styleu003d”font-size:11pt;color:black”>u003cspan>              nu003c/span>u003c/span>u003cb>u003ci>The (BCA) Black Coaches nAssociation is now openly talking about a law suit against the NCAA and its ncoaching hiring practices.u003c/i>u003c/b>u003c/font>u003c/p>nu003cp styleu003d”margin:0in 0in 0pt”>u003cfont faceu003d”Times New Roman”>u003c/font> u003c/p>nu003cp styleu003d”margin:0in 0in 0pt”>u003cfont faceu003d”Times New Roman”>u003c/font> u003c/p>u003c/div>n”,0] ); //–> //]]>

Dr. Richard Lapchick, President and CEO of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport, stated that the Rooney Rule had been such a success that he has pushed the NCAA to adopt something similar for its member schools. The NCAA must understand that schools or colleges do not have to hire minorities but they must open their doors to the interview process as does the NFL.

The NCAA must shutout the Alumni Association with their power broker tactics. They must begin a new chapter in college football. President Miles Brand has to stop bowing to BIG SCHOOLS Alumni Associations and start the real process of hiring the best head football coaches available not their buddies or friends.

It has been 17 years since the first modern day NFL African American Head Coach (Art Shell by the Raiders) was hired to this year’s dream of two African American head coaches in the Super Bowl.

The Question still remains, how many years will it take for an African American collegian head coach to raise the NCAA Football Sears Championship Cup? With the Rooney Rule in the NCAA it can happen.

STOP DRAGGING YOUR FEET NCAA and MOVE INTO THE FUTURE.

NOTE: The Black Coaches Association (BCA) is now openly talking about a possible lawsuit against the NCAA and its coaching hiring practices.