Evin Demirel: One and Done – Do White College Coaches Get More Chances?


The following is excerpted with permission from The Daily Beast article by Evin Demirel, “Black College Football Coaches Don’t Get Second Chances.”

Visit Evin's Author PageCharlie Strong’s hiring as the University of Texas’ new head football coach is significant. He becomes, after all, the first African-American to lead the nation’s richest college athletic program and has a great opportunity to become the first African-American to win a national title, potentially changing the complexion of his profession as John Thompson did in 1984 when he became the first black head coach to win the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship.

For sure, that complexion is already changing. A decade ago, African Americans held four percent of the 120 head coaching positions at college football’s highest level. That has risen to more than 10 percent. Last year, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin became the first black head coach of a Heisman Trophy winner. And Strong’s hire means Texas follows Kentucky as the second state in which its two largest universities are led by black head football coaches. Strong and Sumlin’s vast platforms will alter perceptions in the minds of millions of young Texans of what a prototypical college coach looks like.

It seems inevitable that one day the fact a black head coach was hired at such-and-such big-time college program won’t matter. Just look at other sports. Hardly any sportswriters found it worth mentioning last week that Lovie Smith became the third black head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “Eventually we’ll get to the point where this is not an issue anymore,” Floyd Keith, the former executive of the Black Coaches and Administrators, told the New York Times. “We’re not there yet. What’s missing is a national championship.”

But there’s more missing. Yes, John Thompson’s title at Georgetown was a game changer, opening the doors for subsequent championship-winning coaches like Nolan Richardson at Arkansas and Tubby Smith at Kentucky. Likewise, in the NFL, Tony Dungy became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl in 2007. That win, along with an 11-year-old rule mandating NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate for open head coaching positions, have helped more black coaches get a foothold in the pros.

Still, while a championship accelerates progress, it wouldn’t signify the ultimate breakthrough for minority coaches in college football. That won’t happen until black head coaches, like white head coaches, get second and third chances, says Dr. Fitz Hill, a former San Jose State University head football coach who has studied the issue for decades. “Race will no longer be an issue when the day comes that an African-American football coach is unsuccessful, but you still go and replace him with another African-American football coach.”

“Charlie got his job based on performance, not based on race.”

Hill met Strong when they were both assistant coaches in the early 1990s. Hill coached wide receivers at Arkansas and Strong coached Florida’s defensive line. Since then, they have known each other through Black Coaches and Administrators circles and talked more often when Hill and Michael Dyer – who spent the 2012-13 season on the Arkansas Baptist College campus – were looking for a good, disciplined coach for Dyer to play under. They chose Strong and his program, and Hill visited with him a few times in the summer and earlier in the fall on trips to Louisville. 

On Texas hiring – “He’s very credentialed, he’s done a great job and he’s worthy of the opportunity he’s receiving. He’s done all the right things and he’s won.” 

Hill added he’s proud to see a fellow Arkansan play such an important role in the progress of diversity in the coaching profession.

Read more from Evin Demirel at The Daily Beast here.


Musings from the Sporting Life Arkansas sports desk:

It seems to us the essential point Hill makes is that black coaches don’t get second and third chances but some white coaches do.

Only one black coach (Tyrone Willingham) has ever coached at a major college program AFTER being fired at another (usually for a losing record).

Examples of the white coaches who have been let go and coached again: Bobby Petrino, John L. Smith, Skip Holtz, Gerry DiNardo, Paul Pasqualoni, Hal Mumme and Ron Zookhttp://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/21401608/why-do-white-coaches-like-holtz-get-two-chances-when-black-ones-dont

Sometimes, black coaches are fired for bad behavior. Indeed, look at the firing of Ron English, which happened just last November. Are there others who get a second chance we’re missing?

Of course, white coaches are fired for bad behavior too. Look at Bobby Petrino. But while a white coach has a chance to stay in the business, history shows the black coach is essentially done, doesn’t it?

Imagine if Bobby Petrino were black, not white. Everything else about his life, deeds and achievements remain the same – including the successes he had at Louisville and Arkansas, and the ways he exited those programs.

Would Louisville have rehired a black Bobby Petrino as its head coach?

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