About half the players in college football at the Division I level and up to 75 percent of NFL players are Black. But coaching jobs in the college and pro ranks are overwhelmingly given to white men.
Second-year University of Maryland head coach Michael Locksley has seen enough, and on Wednesday he announced the creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches (NCMFC).
“When I took the Maryland job last year and looked at the landscape of college football, I thought to myself, There’s something missing. I’m on the back nine of my career and the pathway to becoming a head coach is still as difficult as when I got into the business in 1992,” the 50-year-old Locksley told NFL Network’s Jim Trotter by phone Wednesday evening. “I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level.”
Incremental progress, baby steps really, have gotten us to 13 percent of the head coaches in Power Five conferences being Black in 2019. There are only four minority head coaches among the NFL’s 32 teams.
The conception of the NNCMFC began in 2018, during Locksley’s time as an assistant at Alabama. He watched time and time again as Black assistants were passed over while their white colleagues got shot after shot. He wants to change that at all levels of game, working to make sure coaches of color are promoted and developed.
Below is the Board of Directors for the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches:
- Ozzie Newsome, Hall of Famer on college and pro levels, first Black general manager in the NFL, overseer of two Super Bowl winners in Baltimore.
- Nick Saban, University of Alabama head coach and six-time national champion.
- Bill Polian, Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager whose teams participated in five Super Bowls, winning one.
- Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, two-time Super Bowl participant and XLIII winner.
- Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII MVP quarterback and Washington Football Team executive.
- Oliver “Buddy” Pough, South Carolina State head coach.
- Willie Jeffries, first Black head coach in Division I football at Wichita State.
- Chris Grier, Miami Dolphins general manager.
- Debbie Yow, retired basketball coach and pioneering college administrator.
- Rick Smith, former Houston Texans general manager.
- Desiree Reed-Francois, UNLV athletic director and first Hispanic female and woman of color to be AD at an FBS school.
The heat has been there but needs to be cranked up and redirected from the inside. A group like the NCMFC has been long awaited, and quite frankly needed.
The organization will serve both male and female candidates, but won’t start admitting folks for another four to five months.
However, as well-intentioned as the group may be, it gives me pause. Not because I don’t agree with its mission but because of the meshing of problematicparties involved with the leadership.
Polian, a Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager, was on the record before the 2018 draft saying that Lamar Jackson was better served as a wide receiver, though he made an attempt to mask it with other reasoning other than his skin color.
“Short and a little bit slight,” Polian said of the Ravens quarterback. “Clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there.”
Jackson is 6-foot-3, and while he is a bit lanky for a guy at the quarterback position, he has the arm and height of most quarterbacks in the league.
Polian came back later to recant his statement sighting he “used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him.” Aka the white dude who is the only gatekeeper deciding who can or can’t play quarterback based on his aesthetic.
This alliance is no doubt needed, but Polian, who represents a certain era of the league that was not inclusive of Black quarterbacks, now being seated in a key role on a board of an organization working for the advancement of Black coaches, does seem odd. I’m not sure what Polian’s intentions are and what he has learned over the last year since retracting his previous statement about Jackson, but I hope he is sincere when he says that was the “Old...standard with him.”
Locksley seems pretty passionate about fixing the discrepancy in access and development in the coaching ranks for Black people, and it would be a shame if he brought a man on board who has the influence Polian has for things not to change.