Updated: December 11, 2012

Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff Reporter


Division One programs have a very dismal track record with the hiring and firing of African American head coaches. Black Monday has come and gone and it seems like nothing has changed in NCAA when it comes to Black leadership on the football field.

Another African American coach gets fired in Boulder, Colorado for no apparent reason other then he is of a different shade of hue. It has been proven time and time again if given the chance and the proper tools African Americans will excel in whatever they pursue.

Here are just a few suggestions

1) Give Black coaches the tools at Division One Schools and they will win games. This year The American Football Coaches Association “The Coach Of The Year” Award for each region and division. Four Black coaches out of 11 received this award, so that tells everyone the talent is there, you just have to search for them. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers if they are happy with head coach Mike Tomlin.

2) Give Black coaches a 2nd or even a 3rd chance at the Division One head coaching position because practice makes perfect. Individuals should be given an opportunity to succeed. The door has to be open before individuals can walk through. Currently it is very difficult because once a Black coach is fired he hardly ever receives another chance unless it’s from his Alum.

3) Will the NCAA promote African American head coaches? It has been a very slow progress. Next question will the NCAA have to implement the 2003 (NFL) National Football League’s Rooney Rule to increase the interviewing process for African American head coaches. Yes, some NFL teams still try to get around the rule and it’s still a work in progress. This program has increased the number of African American coaches in the League.

4) White coaches can stay at an institution indefinitely, an example Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant who retired at the University of Alabama, Coach Woody Hayes retired at Ohio State University, Bo Schembechler retired at the University of Michigan, Bobby Bowden retired at Florida State University, and the latest John Gagliardi head coach at St John University.

How many African American head coaches retire at the Division One level? ZERO.

As the 2012 College football season comes to a close, the inevitable happens, coaches retire, coaches had great seasons, while other coaches struggled and lost their jobs. Here are this year’s causality list in collegiate football firings in alphabetical order by schools.

Arkansas’ John L. Smith (contract not renewed, announced Nov. 24)

Auburn’s Gene Chizik (fired Nov. 25)
Boston College’s Frank Spaziani (fired Nov. 25)
California’s Jeff Tedford (fired Nov. 21Filled Dec. 6
*Colorado’s Jon Embree (fired Nov. 25) Black Head Coach
*Florida A&M’s Joe Taylor (
resigned Nov. 8) HBCU
Idaho’s Robb Akey (fired Oct. 21)
Georgia State’s Bill Curry (retired)

St. John’s John Gagliardi (retired)

Kentucky’s Joker Phillips (fired Nov. 5, allowed to finish season)
North Carolina State’s Tom O’Brien (fired Nov. 25)
Purdue’s Danny Hope (fired Nov. 25) Filled Dec.6 by Black Head Coach Darrell Hazell
Tennessee’s Derek Dooley (fired Nov. 18) Filled Dec. 5
UTEP’s Mike Price (retired)
Western Michigan’s Bill Cubit (fired Nov. 17)

*bold letting denotes African American.

The net gain of African American coaches so far ZERO. The gain of Darrell Hazell is plus one with the lost of Jon Embree it reverts back to ZERO.

The University of Colorado’s Golden Buffaloes head coach Jon Embree was given his pink slip last month after two years of service. The question should be asked in Boulder why move so quickly? Most football coaches get a four year grace period to improve the program and a window to turn the program around.  It seems like African Americans head coaches have to prove themselves immediately while other head coaches do not have this kind of pressure.

A classic example of this can be found in Southern California where everybody is waiting for the shoe to drop in Los Angeles with the University of Southern California Trojans. Lane Kiffin’s coaching staff lost to the number one team in the land, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. USC lost the game in a very un-Trojan-like fashion with multiple mistakes, coaching errors, and senseless penalties. Lane Kiffin’s job might be in jeopardy but he still has a chance to redeem himself. The pressure was not as great on Kiffin as it was on Colorado’s Embree to produce a winning program.

This year’s pink slip list is long; another example of this double standard lies in Northern California and the University of California-Berkeley. Head Coach Ted Tedford ended this season with the Bears dismal 3-9 record. The Golden Bears had been struggling for the past five years but Tedford remained at the helm in Berkeley. The message from the executives at Strawberry Canyon was do the best you can with what you have and move on, we believe in you. Well this past year it was evident the Golden Bears did not have the talent to win and Tedford had to be replaced.  A Black head coach would have never been given this much time.

Mr. Embree was never given this long leash and was fired when the Golden Buffaloes won three games this year and seven game total under Jon. The University of Colorado transferred to the new Pacific 12 Conference in 2010 so everything for Coach Embree was different, new teams, new cities, and new rules, yet the administration at Boulder could not wait for a winning team.  Note former Golden Buffalo head coach Bill McCartney had the same record at the same time in Boulder. McCartney would later carry the Univ. of Colo. to national prominence and a national title. McCartney was given time. Mr. Embree won’t get that chance.

This is an ever growing dilemma for NCAA African American head football coaches. The NCAA is sending a very disturbing message to young African American football players. You can play for the school, you can make money for the university, you can make the mascot famous, but you can’t lead us on the field.

The 44th President of the United States grapples with this issue every day in Washington, D.C.

Head Coach Ty Willingham preformed well at the University of Stanford getting the Cardinal or Tree to bowl games. Ty left for perceived greener pastures, at the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus of the Campus of Notre Dame. The experience at this mid-west campus was not pleasant and after three years the Fighting Irish released Willingham.  UND cited that Willingham could not recruit players.  What the media did not tell you was that 90% of Willingham’s players graduated on time. This year those same 5th year red shirted seniors are competing for the National Title (Notre Dame vs. Alabama). These players will graduate on time; again the media (The Mouse) ESPN at Bristol, Conn. missed these facts. Willingham is unemployed after another stint at the University of Washington and will probably never be seen on the sidelines of any other Division One football field because he complained about the way he was treated by the administrations of both schools.

Two years after Ty, the South Bend administration hired their next head coach; Mr. Charlie Weis who had the same won-lost record as Willingham, The Golden Dome-ers gave Weis a ten year extension. This was the old boy network in full stride. Weis was let go after Notre Dame had two more bad seasons. The Fighting Irish fell off the NCAA football radar screen. Notre Dame could not score points to win games. Weis got that 2nd chance because he graduated from U.N.D. Why was this not afforded to Mr. Embree who graduated from his Alma matter the University of Colorado?

Black head coaches are often given the worst football programs in Division One to rebuild. An example, Dennis Green coached the Northwestern University-Illinois. The Wildcats were at the bottom of the Big 10 Conference and had the longest losing streak in NCAA history. Green turned that program around and he performed well at Northwestern and then at Stanford University.

Stanford University leads the way in hiring three African American coaches with Dennis Green, Ty Willingham, and now David Shaw. Willingham and Shaw guided the Cardinal to BCS Bowls, being the only two African Americans that have done so. Why can’t other NCAA institutions follow Stanford’s lead?

There is also another training ground for African American head football coaches and it is (HBCU) Historically Black Coaches and Universities. The MEAC- Mid Eastern Athlete Conference, SIAC-Southeastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, SWAC- The South Western Athletic Conference , and CIAA-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA continues to ignore these fine men from HBCU’s who help young Black males graduate. The question should be asked are you (NCAA) really interested in STUDENT-ATHLETES or is it really ATHLETE-STUDENTS.

Just ask our older generation about (Coach Rob) Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University Tiger football program? What about Big House Gains on the basketball floor of Winston Salem State University. Getting an education was more important than the game. White dominated colleges and universities are not interested, nor care enough for their Black athletes. It is beginning to show with the early exiting of students to the professional ranks.  As former Oakland Raider owner Al Davis stated many times JUST WIN BABY!!!!

That is the big difference between white coaches and Black. Black coaches want the student to get an education, get that degree, and make something of themselves. If something unforeseen happens to that athlete they have their minds and a career to fall back on. Many white coaches and universities don’t seem to care about this either. When a student-athlete is no longer an asset for the university, they are dropped like yesterday’s newspaper. Just ask any poor Black football player at the University of Southern California or anywhere in the United States?

Example if a player is injured during the season at a dominate white university the football scholarship is taken away and that player turned student has to pay for the rest of his education. This does not happen at  HBCU’s. The Black universities and colleges find a way to achieve the ultimate goal. That is the player wearing his cap and gown four years later. This is at the forefront of most African American coach’s mind.

Are their problems on HBCU’s campuses of course for example this year’s incident where a young Black man died from injuries of a hazing incident? That HBCU head coach resigned early in the season. The Florida A &M University Marching 100 was suspended for a year and the Rattler football team did not have great year on the field.

The NCAA has to answer the question is there a hidden quota system in the hiring and firing of African American Football coaches on college campuses?

Next question when was the last time a Black head coach retired from a major D-1 university? The answer is that they are never given enough time to do so.

Currently there are nine Black head coaches as of December 2012. There are 210 Division One Football programs.

Turner Gill- Liberty University

Kevin Sumlin- Texas A & M University
Charlie Strong- University of Louisville
Joker Phillips- University of Kentucky
Ruffin McNeill- East Carolina University
Mike London- University of Virginia
DeWayne Walker- New Mexico State University
Larry Porter- University Memphis
Willie Taggart- Western Kentucky University might be moving to Univ. of South Fla.
Ron English- Eastern Michigan University

David Shaw- Stanford University

Turner Gill is a pioneer because he is in his third job as head coach with Buffalo, Kansas, and now Liberty.  Mike London is currently guiding the University of Virginia Cavaliers after a fruitful stay with the Richmond Spiders. Nobody knew about the Spider football program until London got them not only a bowl bid but an undefeated National Championship in 2008. London almost repeated the fete in 2009 but lost in the quarterfinals to Appalachian State.

Gill and London are the only two African American head coaches that have received multiple head coaching jobs.

Kevin Sumlin currently engineering the Aggies of Texas A &M up the BCS Polls with Heisman Trophy winner, freshman quarterback Johnny “Football” Manzeil.  Coach Sumlin was awarded Coach Of The Year, by the American Football Coaches Association leading the Aggies to a 10-2 record and a major bowl bid.

Charlie Strong at the University of Louisville also granted an award by the AFCA.  The Cardinals will play the Florida Gators in a BCS Bowl Jan 2, 2013. Go Cardinals.

The AFCA gave awards to two coaches from HBCU’s, the undefeated Winston Salem State Rams head coach Connell Maynor and Bethune-Cookman College Wildcat head coach Brian Jenkins.

The last question is will the 14 NCAA Head Coaching positions be open to African Americans? There are many qualified Black assistant coaches all over the country.

Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove on Disabled Community Activist. Email at

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

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