Is college football going to hire any Black coaches this year?

·4 min read

Is college football going to hire any African American coaches this year?

Just wondering, because the trend certainly isn’t headed in that direction. Last season, the 120 FBS schools employed 13 Black head coaches. Three were fired and no African Americans have been hired yet this year (10 open positions have been filled by 10 white men).

And, yes, we know, “college football” isn’t a singular entity. Individually, each hire can be justified (well, unless you read fan message boards). Collectively though, a coincidence that has coincidence-ed for decades just keeps coincidence-ing.

It’s embarrassing.

Or it should be for a sport where the vast majority of administrators, fans and boosters want to be fair-minded and are, at the very least, proponents of a meritocracy that rewards the most qualified, deserving and talented person for a job.

If you agree with the above, yet don’t think there are any problems with the current system of identifying that most qualified, deserving or talented candidate, then you would have to also believe that only 10 African Americans exist who are capable of running a college football program.

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2020, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, left, stands beside quarterback coach Jedd Fisch before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Foxborough, Mass. Arizona is hiring New England Patriots assistant Jedd Fisch as its head coach, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020. Fisch is filling the vacancy created when Arizona fired Kevin Sumlin earlier this month after the Wildcats finished the season winless, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the school was still preparing an official announcement. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Arizona is hiring New England Patriots assistant Jedd Fisch, right, as its head coach. Fisch is filling the vacancy created when Arizona fired Kevin Sumlin. (AP)

For generations aspiring Black coaches have been told they need to ascend to the coordinator level of a major program before getting consideration for the head job at a mid-major program. They then need to win at that middle tier level (MAC, Sun Belt, Conference USA) before being a candidate at a big money, Power 5 school (SEC, Big Ten, ACC).

It wasn’t race that was holding them back, they were told, it was experience. Climb the ladder. Put in the time. Boot straps. Things like that.

Shane Beamer was never an offensive or defensive coordinator. He was most recently the tight ends coach at Oklahoma. South Carolina still made him a first-time head coach earlier this month. Welcome to the SEC.

Jedd Fisch spent one season as a college offensive coordinator — at UCLA in 2017. The Bruins went 6-7. He’s held the title in the NFL, although not of late (he was in his first season as quarterbacks coach for New England). Due to his pro experience, he has limited recruiting experience.

Arizona gave him his first head coaching job this week anyway.

This isn’t fair to Beamer or Fisch, of course. These discussions are never fair. They’ve done nothing wrong. You can’t fault them for accepting really good jobs.

Moreover, it isn’t necessarily fair to Arizona (which just employed an African American coach) or South Carolina. You can’t point and say there is a clear racist element to these hires. It never works that way, though.

And perhaps Beamer and Fisch will turn out to be incredible. Their hirings will be examples of eagle-eyed athletic directors who spotted previously unseen talent.

If so, the skeptics will be proven wrong. At least Fisch and Beamer get the chance to prove it, though.

If it’s no longer a prerequisite to rise to major program coordinator or mid-major head coaching success story, then why do these cast-a-wide-net searches or outside-of-the-box hires rarely seem to happen for an African American?

There isn’t a talented position coach out there (generally pigeon-holed with the running backs or secondary)? No one buried on a NFL staff? No 30-something wunderkind anywhere?

Are there no African American diamonds in the rough? Or are these athletic directors just not combing through all the rough?

What about a Black head coach who could use a second shot? Maybe they got hired once but it didn’t work out perfectly. Through failure they learned and are now ready for a reboot. It happens.

After all, Arkansas State just hired Butch Jones, who was fired at Tennessee in 2017. The University of Louisiana-Monroe went one better and took Terry Bowden, who in the 1990s was a force at Auburn, but most recently produced just one winning season in seven years at Akron.

If Bowden got a third chance, then why is it so rare for a Black head coach to get a second? Is a bad Sun Belt job too much to ask?

It sure seems like ADs, whether they realize it or not, seek out reasons to hire some coaches while finding different reasons to not hire different coaches.

Again, there is no concrete proof. And, again, this is not fair to Jones or Bowden. It’s not their fault.

It’s never anyone’s fault, though. It’s just something that keeps happening. And happening. And happening. Right before our eyes.

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