Several college football coaches have been fired in the last week, including Bret Bielema, Butch Jones, Kevin Sumlin, Mike Riley, and Todd Graham. Herm Edwards is reportedly close to replacing Graham at Arizona State, but it seems other African-American coaches – such as USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin – aren’t even being considered for head-coaching gigs.
Why is that?
“Most people, we’re going to hire who we know that we’re comfortable with,” history professor at the University of Texas and the founder of the Black Student-Athlete Summit Dr. Leonard Moore said on Gio and Jones. “If I’m not careful, I will hire all middle-class black folk because that’s the world I operate in. To say it’s racist, I think that’s a bit too far. I think these good old boys are hiring people they know. For instance, Ray Anderson is about to hire Herm Edwards at Arizona State. That’s his boy.”
Anderson, like Edwards, is African-American. Many athletic directors – and other university leadership types – are not.
“I had an interview for a dean position at a prominent Big Ten school, and when I was interviewing with them, there was a good old boy in the back of the room,” Moore recalled. “And throughout the interview, I could tell he was thinking, ‘Can this young brother raise money from our rich, white alums?’ And he came to the conclusion that I couldn’t. So what I tell ADs is, ‘You got to bring black folk into your circle.’ But we, as black folk, we’ve got to be willing to do some of the tough stuff – like going to play golf with white folk, going to hobnob in places where we may not feel 100 percent comfortable. So I think we need more opportunities, but we have to make sure that we’re doing everything that we need to do to be in the network.”
As Moore pointed out, though, some African-American assistant coaches don’t want to give up their gigs – not because they don’t want to be head coaches, but because it doesn’t make financial sense.
“It’s tough for some of these assistants,” Moore said. “If I’m a black assistant at Texas making $400,000, am I going to jump off that train and go get a job at a mid-major, where I may make less money or the same amount of money? So some guys say, ‘You know what? I’m going to sit here at Texas or Alabama. I’m just going to ride this out for 25 years because I got a good life.’”
The college game may want to institute something similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head-coaching and executive positions.
Moore believes that the Rooney Rule has been successful.
“Yes, I think it is working,” he said. “There is a value in going through the interview process. I’ve talked to a lot of guys in the league and they said, ‘Doc, I’m not going to be a token interview.’ I said, ‘Brother, you need to go interview to find out what the process is like.’ That’s how Mike Tomlin got hired at Pittsburgh.”
Tomlin, 45, has coached Pittsburgh since 2007. He’s also won a Super Bowl and played in another.
“So we can never turn down an opportunity to be in front of owners or be in front of decision-makers,” Moore said. “Could it work in college? When you look at these teams, (they’re) 80 to 90 percent black. So I think what you’ll start to find is that some of these young men are going to start to demand that some of these head coaches be African-American.”