Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Hiring of Black Coaches: The Hiring of Black Head Coaches in College Football Continues to Be a Challenge

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Hiring of Black Coaches: The Hiring of Black Head Coaches in College Football Continues to Be a Challenge

Article excerpt

Penn State University's James Franklin was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006-2007 and quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator and associate head coach at Maryland from 2008-2010.

The next year, Franklin was named head coach at Vanderbilt University.

However, room for advancement doesn't only reside on the offensive side of the ball. The defensive side has produced four Black head coaches who work in the Power 5 conferences.

Dr. Brian Joseph, an educational consultant, says his data show the key defensive stopover on the journey to head-coaching positions lies in the secondary: defensive backs coaches.

"Many offenses are throwing the ball 30-40 times a game, and, as a result, defenses have traded in traditional 4-3 defenses for defenses that routinely utilize five defensive backs," says Joseph. "This has made the defensive backs coach an integral part of the defensive coaching scheme and hierarchy.

"Of the current head coaches within the Power 5 [conferences], 24 of 62 were former defensive coordinators and 19 of these were former defensive backs coaches. The current Black head coaches with defensive coordinator experience were all defensive backs coaches at some point in their early careers."

Herman Edwards, head coach at Arizona State, was defensive backs coach at San Jose State from 1987 to 1989. Then after two years of scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs, he became defensive backs coach for the Chiefs from 1992 to 1995. Afterward, he was defensive backs coach and associate head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 to 2000. The next year, he was named head coach of the New York Jets. Edwards also played defensive back in the NFL for 10 seasons.

Dino Babers, head coach at Syracuse, is also a telling case. He played on both sides of the ball, running back and defensive back, at Hawaii and coached on offense and defense. He coached defensive backs at Northern Arizona and quarterbacks at Arizona and Texas A&M, where he also served as offensive coordinator for both schools. Later, he became head coach at Eastern Illinois, a Division I FCS program where he coached quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, now leading a late-season revival of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. Babers' career all began when he served as a graduate assistant at Hawaii and Arizona State.

Lovie Smith, head coach at Illinois, also followed the defensive backs model. He played defensive back at Tulsa, then later coached defensive backs at Tennessee and Ohio State. He was the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2003, during their playoff years and a Super Bowl appearance. In 2004, Smith was named head coach of the Chicago Bears.

Derek Mason, head coach at Vanderbilt, played defensive back in college at Northern Arizona, then coached defensive backs at Bucknell, with the Minnesota Vikings and at Stanford. From 2010 to 2013, Mason was defensive backs coach at Stanford, co-defensive coordinator, associate head coach and defensive coordinator.

Then, in 2014, Mason was named head coach at Vanderbilt, replacing James Franklin.

The moral to the story, according to Joseph: Some assistant coaching positions are more important than others. Coaching positions such as running backs or defensive linemen could be a waste of time, especially if an assistant coach never reaches the coordinator level.

But what about proportionality? There are 12 Black head coaches in Division 1 FBS major-college football, including seven at the aforementioned Power 5 conferences. But that's out of 128 FBS teams altogether. So that's 9.3 percent. Three other Black head coaches were fired in the past year.

Still, more than 50 percent of FBS players today are Black, with the percentages skewed even higher at such powerhouses as Alabama and Clemson.

"White candidates are hired at a faster rate within the Power 5 conferences," says Joseph, "but this is partly based on the simple fact that there are more to choose from. …

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