There’s a reason anyone that has ever been associated with Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick can get a head coaching job in the NFL. Same goes for Pete Carroll, whose recommendation can send even his least experienced assistant right to top of a college program’s wish list. It’s simple. People are judged by who they’re associated with.
And so it didn’t matter that Buffalo’s Turner Gil probably had a better resume, including far more success as a head coach than Gene Chizik, because all Auburn University saw was Sylvester Croom’s failures at Mississippi State and Tyrone Willingham falling on his face at Washington. For all we know, the only thing the three men have in common is that they’re African-American, but that was all the information the university needed. As unconscionable as it seems (what year is it?) Turner Gil was guilty by association.
There are now just three black head coaches in the 119 team NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, but the spotlight is focused on just one. As unfair as it is, one man is carrying the reputation of black college coaches all over the country on his shoulders. His success could change everything, but his failure would make even a playoff more likely than an influx in minority coaching hires.
He is Miami head coach Randy Shannon, the only black man running a BCS conference program. Since his promotion from defensive coordinator two seasons ago, Shannon has put together consecutive top 10 recruiting classes, which has most people thinking the Hurricanes are on their way back to being a national power. However, his on-the-field success has been limited. While the team did spend some time in the Top 25 this year, Shannon is off to the worst start of any Miami head coach in three decades.
Shannon probably doesn’t need any added pressure, considering that another .500 season will probably get him fired. But whether he likes it or not, his third season at the helm will mean just as much to guys like Gil, who have all the credentials to lead a major program, but need someone to pave the way.
It’s scary how segregated college football programs still are. On the field, the game is dominated by minorities. But starting with the graduate assistants and up through head coaches and beyond that to the boosters (the guys who really make a program) and college presidents, you’d be lucky to find more than handful of people that aren’t white.
These are the same groups of people who spent years debating whether or not black kids could play quarterback.
Shannon has the opportunity to do for coaching what Warren Moon and Donovan McNabb did for that position: Prove that the color of someone’s skin has nothing to do with their ability to make decisions.
It’s just sad, pathetic really, that in 2008, someone still needs to make that statement.
Interesting reads on this subject:
When Keepin' It "Swirl" Goes Wrong – Average Bro
The Black Coach Debacle – The Husk-a-Neer Lounge
This is Why Black College Football Coaches are Rare – Ballers, Gamers and Scoundrels
Black Coaches in College Football – Underground Railroad