It’s become a trend in college football: When a black coach earns a spot running a Division I program, their expected timetable for turning the team around is significantly shorter than their white counterparts.
This week, the NFL’s public campaign for diversity was taken up a notch, when incentives could have been placed on the table for franchises if they hired coaches and GMs of color. It was ultimately tabled by the NFL owners during their meeting Tuesday, but it pushed me to look into what opportunities coaches of color are getting to prove themselves at the college level.
When a new head coach is brought on board, most sign for five years, but for black coaches the timeframe rarely aligns with expectations.
Five years allows a coach ample time to recruit their own guys and have them play through the system. It’s a long enough time to see if the coach is moving the program in the right direction.
Generally, black coaches get two to three years, max, before a decision on their future is made. Likely fighting through double consciousness — a phrase coined by W.E.B. Du Bois — as they lug the burden of black stereotypes while also facing the pressure of meeting an unrealistic coaching standard.
Which leads to many coaches fearing if they are fired they probably won’t land on their feet again in a head coaching role, and there is good reason to believe that.
A December article by fivethirtyeight.com found only seven cases since 1975 in which a black coach received a second chance at head coach at a top-division school after being fired from his first job.
Which points to an evident flaw in the pipeline of talent and system as a whole.
“White candidates are hired at a faster rate within the Power 5 conferences,” Dr. Brian Joseph said in 2018, “but this is partly based on the simple fact that there are more to choose from. As of the 2016 season, there were nearly three times as many White assistant coaches, 641 vs. 221, than Black.”
Tom Holmoe, Tim Murphy, Jim Wacker, Joe Avezzano, Terry Shea, Kliff Kingsbury and the list goes on and on. These are white coaches who had unsuccessful stints as head coach who were allowed at least five seasons to turn things around. And even when they didn’t and were let go, many turned the page into another head coaching/ athletic director gig.
Another example, Ed Orgeron who just won a National championship as the head coach of LSU, started his career 10-25 at Ole Miss.
Dabo Swiney and Nick Saban at the start of their coaching career weren’t competing for national titles. They were just vying for bowl eligibility. If they can get the patience in leading, the guys mentioned above as well as other coaches of color deserve to as well.
Here are just a few black head coaches who were not given legitimate time to show what they could do with their respective programs.