The number of Black coaches is slowly improving – with the emphasis on “slowly.”
In 2003 there were only four Black head coaches at the 120 programs on college football’s highest level, which was extremely embarrassing. The NFL started to clean up its act a while back, and their numbers have greatly improved, but college football had always lagged behind.
Since 2004 the numbers have improved, but it still shows how Black coaches were locked out for so long. Today there are 16 Black coaches in Division I-A football, and 61 percent of all the minority football coaches ever hired on the FBS level have been hired in the nine years since the publication of the first Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) Football Hiring Report Card was released.
The report showed that college football was operating on a pre-civil rights era level. College football has been played for over 140 years, but 61 percent of Black coaches ever hired happened within the last nine years.
Four of 16 Black head coaches led teams that were ranked in the Top 25 polls. David Shaw at Stanford, Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, Charlie Strong at Louisville, and Darrell Hazell at Kent State led their team to winning seasons.
Shaw recently became the first Black head coach to win a BCS bowl game when he led Stanford to a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Stanford’s success over the past three years was attributed to former head coach Jim Harbaugh, who left two years ago for the NFL, and quarterback Andrew Luck, who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts last year. This season Stanford was without either of those guys, but they won the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1972, with Shaw running the show.
Sumlin led Texas A&M to a blowout victory over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and his team gave Alabama’s national championship team their only loss of the season.
Strong waited 27 years to become a head coach, as he was a long-time assistant at several schools, including the defensive coordinator for two of Florida’s national championship teams.
The day after Shaw became the first Black head coach to win a BCS bowl game, Strong became the second, as he led Louisville to an upset victory over No. 3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
The few Black coaches that have been given the opportunity to become head coaches in college football have proven that they are worthy of the position, but that does not mean that they are now on even footing with white coaches.
Colorado fired head coach Jon Embree, who is Black, after he posted a 1-11 record this season, and a 4-21 record over his two seasons on the job. Colorado did have grounds to fire him because of the amount of losses over two years, but before Embree was hired, Colorado had just fired head coach Dan Hawkins, who led them to five losing seasons. Why was Hawkins given five years, but Embree only two?
It appears that Black head coaches are still held up to a much higher standard than white coaches. The fact that only one Black head coach, Tyrone Willingham, has ever been rehired after being fired from a head coaching position, is another reason to become alarmed with the situation in college football. Former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell has not had another opportunity since he was fired.
There have been improvements in college football when it comes to hiring Black head coaches, but the problem is far from being solved.