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White Privilege and Coaching
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN (BASN) — When I got up Sunday morning, I awoke to the news that the Los Angeles Rams had given their head coach Jeff Fisher a two-year contract extension.
“Wow”, I thought. “The price of mediocrity has just skyrocketed again!!!”
To be quite honest, I’m being more than kind while mentioning mediocrity and the former NFL defensive back in the same damn sentence. Since going 13-3 with the Tennessee Titans in 2008, the “Fisher King” has only had one .500 season since.
In fact, he’s gone a whopping 45-62-1 — including a 31-44-1 mark with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams — during that stretch including Sunday’s 26-10 smackdown to Team Tivo, I mean the Patriots.
Rams’ CEO Kevin Demoff said of the re-signing of Fisher, “Everybody will want to judge Jeff through the prism of just the record, but that’s totally unfair when you look at the set of circumstances he was handed this year.”
“To provide leadership and consistency, he’s done a model job.”
One would think that Knute Rockne or Eddie Robinson was just given an extension following those quotes. In a side note, Eric Dickerson couldn’t be reached for comment.
Whenever I hear some folks say “white privilege really doesn’t exist”, I will gladly send them an 8×10 glossy photo of Mr. Fisher and his “mediocre” coaching record as Exhibit 1.
While the NFL may have the Rooney Rule in place, no rule is in place regarding the changing of back room attitudes within pro and college football. For every Tony Dungy or Mike Tomlin that wins a Super Bowl, there’s a Sherman Lewis or Ted Cottrell that was never given the opportunity.
In many ways, those prevailing attitudes might be worst in colleges than in the pros. Yes, Charlie Strong had his problems at Texas, but it sure didn’t help to have someone like a Red McCombs counting down the hours to get him the hell outta Austin from day one.
The re-signing of Fisher points out all of the nasty things that many media folk don’t like to talk about in present company. The current coaching carousel that has already started revolving and not surprisingly, the same names keep coming up.
Between Les Miles, Lane Kiffin, and the yearly Jon Gruden rumors, it’s usually the same names that come up for the top college and or pro job openings. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Chucky off the Monday night games, but I digress.
In as much much as I respect the former Giant headman Tom Coughlin as a head coach, it’s just damn criminal for his name to even be mentioned for a second stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After watching the SWAC Championship Game this weekend, I started thinking about someone like Rod Broadway. Never heard of Mr. Broadway? Well, allow me to educate you a bit.
The current head man at North Carolina A&T, Broadway began his collegiate coaching career at East Carolina University in 1979. His other coaching positions included stays at Duke University (1981-94), the University of Florida (1995-00) and the University of North Carolina (2001-02).
As an assistant at UNC, Broadway helped the Tar Heels — his alma mater — to a No. 15 national ranking in total defense and an appearance in the Peach Bowl.
At Florida, he served as a member of the Steve Spurrier’s staff. In 1996, he helped the Gators win an NCAA National Championship. Broadway’s stay also included four SEC Championships and six bowl appearances.
The Gators defense led the SEC in sacks four straight seasons (1996-99), and the team set a school record for fewest rushing yards allowed, as offenses produced just 70.7 yards per game.
He got his first head coaching gig at North Carolina Central. His four-year stint (2003-06) at N.C. Central produced a 33-11 record, back-to-back CIAA titles for the first time in 50 years and the Eagles made two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II Playoffs.
He then moved on to become the head coach at Grambling State. In his four seasons (2007-10) at GSU, the Tigers went 35-12 under his leadership.
The year before he arrived at GSU, the Tigers went 3-8. During his first season there in 2008, the Tigers finished second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and made an appearance in the SWAC Championship Game.
Broadway then moved on to A&T in 2011. He went 5-6 in his first season but by his third season with the Aggies, they had shared a pair of MEAC crowns and last year won the inaugural Celebration Bowl. This past season, the Aggies reached the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 1999.
By the way, he won a National Black Championship and several division and or league crowns at all three stops. In 13 seasons, Broadway is 114-45.
Ironically, this year’s Celebration Bowl will match two schools that Broadway previously coached. N.C. Central and Grambling State will meet in this year’s contest on December 17th in Atlanta.
Feel free to call it “The Broadway Bowl In Dixie”.
Then there’s Willie Taggart, the current head coach at the University of South Florida. A graduate and former quarterback standout for Western Kentucky, he made his coaching debut at Stanford in 2007 under Jim Harbaugh.
Eventually, he returned to WKU and became the Hilltoppers’ head coach in 2010. After a 2-8 start, Taggart would go 7-5 in consecutive seasons and gain a berth in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
By 2013, Taggart would move on to USF. Again things would start slowly for him (another 2-9 start), but as he’s always done, Taggart would turn things around.
Last year, the Bulls went 8-5 and would go to the Miami Beach Bowl. This season, Taggart’s squad would go 10-2 and win the American Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division crown. The Bulls will meet South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on December 29th.
Taggart was interviewed for the current opening at Oregon this past week.
So what’s the point? No matter it be the colleges or the pros, there have been and always will be qualified black head coaches in the mix. There are many Broadways and Taggarts out there just waiting for a legitimate chance.
While the late Al Campanis and his “necessities” comments are dead and buried, the prevailing attitudes surrounding them are sadly still being either practiced or whispered in many of these areas.
It’s needless to say, however, no one is advocating a token black hire. All that does is set the process back even further than it already is. All one can ask for is some equity and fairness.
We need less Jeff Fishers and more James Frankilns. More Jim Caldwells and less Ron Zooks. I find it ironic that the folks in Happy Valley were ready to ride Mr. Franklin outta town earlier in the year.
While nothing will make up for the ugly stain left by Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky, the bandwagon can’t get big enough for the Nittany Lions and Franklin after Saturday’s Big Ten Championship win.
They’ll love ya through win or tie I guess. Hell, at least he got the chance.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.