It’s Time For A Chance, NCAA

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: November 26, 2008

EDITOR’S NOTE: Four years ago, BASN’s Gary Norris Gray wrote this article about the hiring and firing of Division I-A black head football coaches. Unfortunately, not much has changed.

Turner Gill

Turner Gill

CALIFORNIA — President-Elect Barack Obama stated many times in his 2008 campaign that this was a time for change. The NCAA needs to respond to this national call when it comes to the hiring and firing of African American Head Football coaches.

It is a time for change.

Total commitment from our nation’s college and university presidents and administrators is needed to bring about this change in the current head football coaching staffing.

This year has been a total disaster when it addresses the issue of minority hiring of Division I head football coaches. History will record February 4, 2007 as the day when the first National Football League African American head coaches competed for the Vince Lombardi Trophy (Super Bowl).

Unfortunately, the NCAA cannot boast of such an event, nor do they seem interested in doing so.

If the United States can elect an African American for Presidency of this country, why can’t the NCAA Division I Football programs hire more African American head coaches?

On December 1, 2008, minority Division I football college head coaches will not even come close to winning or raising the Sears Trophy, a symbol of the BCS football championship.

In fact, the NCAA and its hiring practices have regressed by losing two more African American Football head coaches, Tyrone Willingham at the University of Washington, and Ron Prince at Kansas State University.

The NCAA should take a page from the NFL rule book and install the Rooney Rule. Currently there are 119-211 Division I-A schools with only five minority head coaches.

The NCAA has added a subdivision of Division I schools. My alma mater, Southern Illinois University, is a member of this subdivision. SIU will play in the subdivision playoffs for the fifth year in a row, a school record for the Fighting Salukis.

The NCAA has decreased its numbers to four head coaches and that is only two percent of African American head coaches in Division I football programs.

Columbia’s Norries Wilson is the first African American football coach in the Ivy League. Mike London is the first African-American head football coach at Richmond University history. Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State University is first African American head football coach in SEC history.

Others include Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston and Turner Gill at Buffalo, the first African American head coach of that respective school. The ex-Nebraska quarterback has led the Bulls to the Mid-American Conference title game in just three seasons.

This is a very disturbing historical low.

This is the lowest number of Black head coaches in 15 years. The NCAA continues to move backwards with each passing year.

Maybe with the President-Elect Obama’s presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue starting January 20, 2009 the pressure will be on College and Universities President Myles Brand to make significant changes in 2009.

The NCAA’s stalling has hurt hiring practices of minority coaching candidates on college campuses. What happened to Willingham at Notre Dame should never happen to any African American coach or any coach period whether he can recruit or not.

Coach Willingham had brought the Fighting Irish football program to a level of significant progress on the field the first two years and had no academic problems with players. So the question remains why Notre Dame released Willingham.

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.

It is apparent that African American head coaches have to be better then their white counterparts.

Charlie Weis is this year’s example of this double standard. The Irish will have a task to beat BCS bound USC in Los Angeles this Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame blew a 21-point lead in the 4th quarterand lost to Syracuse, a 3-8 team from the Big East, a conference whose overall strong suit is basketball.

No Fighting Irish team has ever done that before. Mr. Weis also made history last year losing to both service academies in the same year and not winning a bowl game since he received the reigns at South Bend four years ago.The NFL continues to move forward while the NCAA continues to backslide into the past.

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.

At the end of this football season the brain trust of the NCAA have another chance to rectify this growing problem. Here is the list of coaching vacancies as of the last week of November 2008.

University of Wyoming Clemson University University of Tennessee Toledo University University of Washington

San Diego State University Syracuse University University of New Mexico Utah State University

Here are a few suggestions for next year.

1. Administrators must shutout the various schools Alumni Association with their power broker tactics and nepotism job offerings.

2. Must begin a new chapter in college football history interviewing at least one minority canadate for each head football coaching job.

3. President Myles Brand has to stop bowing down to Big Schools Alumni Associations and start the real process of hiring the best head football coaches available.

It has been 17 years since the first modern day NFL African American Head Coach Art Shell (Oakland Raiders) was hired until the dream of two African American head coaches in the Super Bowl was accomplished.

The NCAA is so many light years away from this accomplishment.

The Question still remains, how many years will it take for an African American collegiate head coach to raise the NCAA Football Sears Championship Cup?

With the Rooney Rule in the NCAA it should happen sooner then later.

Or President Myles Brand, America will be seeing you in Federal Court trying to defend the current National Collegian Athlete Association hiring and firing polices.

It really is time for a change.