The lack of black head football coaches is hard to explain

When it comes to diversity, America has come a long way, but not far enough.

Whether you liked the presidential election results or not, the election of Barack Obama is Exhibit A demonstrating that things are far different than they were a century, or even 25 years ago. But there are still some gross inequities in our world and the playing field isn?t level, notably in college football.

Following the dismissals of K-State?s Ron Prince and Wash?ington?s Tyrone Willingham, and the resignation of Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State, there are only three African-American head college football coaches out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision programs, the lowest total since 1993.

According to a recent study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the Univer?sity of Central Florida, 54 percent of FBS players are minorities (50 percent of those African-American); 5.04 percent of FBS head coaches are minorities. And 92.5 percent of FBS university presidents, 87.5 percent of FBS athletic directors and 100 percent of FBS conference commissioners are white.

The number of African-Americans is better, but still low, when it comes to offensive and defensive coordinators (31 of 255) and assistant coaches (312 of 1,018).

According to a study co-written by Richard Lapchick, 199 head coaching jobs have been available since 1996. Only 12 of those jobs have gone to African-American candidates.

I don?t know if the whiteness of college football sidelines can be attributed to racism or not, but it?s certainly odd. columnist Gene Wojciechowski points out that facts are facts. Willingham is the first and only Notre Dame football coach in the modern era to be fired before the completion of his five-year contract.

His successor, Charlie Weis, had exactly one more victory than Willingham after three seasons. Willingham got canned. After seven games at South Bend, Weis got a contract extension that runs through 2015.

Meanwhile, Prince ?resigned? before the end of his third season at K-State.

One could argue if Willing?ham and Prince had won more games, it would make it easier for athletic directors to hire more African-American head coaches. But those failures are hardly an excuse not to hire minority head coaches.

?If a white person is not successful in a particular position, that doesn?t mean another white person would not be successful,? said Buffalo athletic director Warde Manuel, who happens to be African-American.

He added, ?I struggle with the why, to be honest…. Why people who are coordinators in successful programs haven?t had a chance to be a head coach, while others with less accolades, less records, get these jobs.?

Wojciechowski believes one reason for the lack of African-American head college football coaches is because it?s safer. ?There?s less blowback from university presidents, trustees, donors and friends of the program.?

For whatever reason, the NFL has found it easier to hire African-American head coaches. Right now in the NFL there are six black head coaches for the 31 franchises.

The Super Bowl two years ago between Chicago and Indianapolis was noteworthy because two African-Americans, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy, were the head coaches.

J.C. Hagan writes that it takes more qualifications to be a head football coach at a major college level than it does to be president.

?The only absolute requirements to be president are an age over 35, natural-born citizenship and residence in the States for 14 years. There?s also a variety of practical requirements: No jail time, respectable education, service record, and, most importantly, the ability to raise ungodly heaps of cash.

?To be a head football coach, one first has to have a bachelor?s degree to even be in the candidate pool. On the practical front, most fan bases, boosters and administrators require a lengthy resume of football exploits. I would estimate 10 years of coaching experience to get a head job at a lower-tier school, while most upper-crust jobs require proven head coaching experience at a sizable school.?

Whatever the reasons are for the low number of African-American head football coaches, clearly the number is embarrassingly low.

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