Stanford University and Black Coaching Success

Updated: January 27, 2014





Stanford and Black Coaching Success

By Kevin Martin

Special to BASN 


As we wrap up the 2013-14 college football season, this is an excellent time to recognize a football program that has excelled at hiring black head football coaches.


We have to acknowledge Stanford University for its contribution to the success of black football coaches both at the college and the professional level.  Also, Northwestern should be noted for having hired two black head coaches, Dennis Green and Francis Peay.


Stanford stands out because it has had the most black head coaches of any Division I football program.  With three black head coaching hires, Stanford exceeds or matches most other FBS conferences!  Also, Stanford black head football coaches have been the most successful in terms of both win-loss records and their ability to move to other jobs.


Out of 25 football seasons since 1989, a black coach has been the head of the Stanford football program an amazing 13 seasons or 52% of the time!  These coaches include:


Dennis Green                     3 seasons             1989-1991          Overall record of 16-18

Tyrone Willingham            7 seasons            1995 – 2001        Overall record of 46-36-1

David Shaw                        2 seasons            2011-                    Overall record of 34-7


Why has Stanford continued to hire black football coaches?  A key factor is that black football coaches at Stanford have won.  Their overall record is 96-61-1 compared to a record of 79-85-1 for the other coaches during the same time frame.  Now, records can be deceiving and sports success is cyclical, but there is no doubt that the black head coaches hired at Stanford have taken advantage of their opportunities.


Moreover, the impact of these black coaches on future black coaching success has been almost immeasurable.  The Dennis Green influence alone is amazing.  When he was first hired at Northwestern, he was named Big 10 “Coach of the Year” in 1982.  While at Stanford his team upset Top Ranked Notre Dame in 1990.


In 1991 he led Stanford to an 8-4 record, its best in years.  This success allowed him to move into the professional ranks.  As a professional, he became one of the most successful black coaches in the NFL and led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 15-1 record in 1998.  His assistant coaches include none other than Tony Dungy the first black coach to win a Super Bowl.


Also, Jim Harbaugh the Stanford Football coach from 2007-2010 is reported to have studied Dennis Green’s power running approach (see “touchdown” Tommy Vardell”).  Harbaugh of course is seen as the architect of Stanford’s current football success.


Ty Willingham had a 9-3 season at Stanford in his final year with the university.  This success allowed him to be hired at Notre Dame after George O’Leary was forced to resign as a result of a resume issue.  Willingham was named ESPN / Home Depot Coach of the Year in his first year at Notre Dame.


Stanford’s current black football coach David Shaw has surpassed all others.  He was the first black coach to win a BCS bowl game.  He has the best record of any black football coach in Division I history.  Moreover, during David Shaw’s tenure, Stanford’s Offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, and the Defensive coordinator, Derek Mason, were also black.  No other Division I team has ever had this situation.


What is even more noteworthy is that Shaw was handed the keys to the Cadillac at Stanford.  He was hired to coach at a time when Stanford had an outstanding quarterback – Andrew Luck and tremendous talent at the linebacker and running back positions including Shane Skov, Chase Thomas, etc.  From Shaw’s staff, Pep Hamilton has already moved on to the offensive coordinator role at the Indianapolis Colts.  Shaw and Derek Mason are constantly being mentioned as candidates for other coaching opportunities.


Black Athlete Sports Network leads the way in highlighting the struggles of black coaches.  Hopefully, the hiring and success of David Shaw will lead other programs to consider black coaches when openings occur.



Kevin Martin is an Executive Recruiter and a former technology entrepreneur.  He can be reached at


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