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London: First Black Head Football Coach in National Championship in 30 Years

The amazing playoff run of the Richmond Spiders will climax in Chattanooga, Tennessee, this Friday against the University of Montana on ESPN at the FCS National Championship. True, the college isn’t known as a traditional football powerhouse, but it is almost within a league of its own.

Not only is first-year Head Coach Mike London taking his team to the National Championship – a feat almost unheard of – but London is also only one of five minority coaches to continue into post-season play.

“I think we belong,” London told reporters after last Saturday’s game. “In the first three rounds, we played conference champions. This is a significant accomplishment for these players.”

London is the second Black head coach to take his team to the FCS National Championship, formerly Division I-AA, since Rudy Hubbard won it with Florida A&M in 1978.

There are currently three Black head coaches and one Samoan who represent just 5 percent of the 68 head coaches in total that are going to bowl games this season. London is not included among the three Black coaches because the University of Richmond competes in a division that contains smaller universities than schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A. The FBS comprises traditional powerhouse schools like the University of Oklahoma and the University of Florida, which will face one another in the BCS National Championship.

Although Blacks account for 46 percent of the players in the FBS, according to the NCAA, that level of diversity is certainly not represented in the division’s coaching ranks.

The 2008 season in the Football Bowl Subdivision began with eight coaches of color, six of whom were African American, according to the annual hiring report of the nonprofit group Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA). Three of the six were fired in the last month, but newly hired Michael Locksley, an African American, was brought on board last week at the University of New Mexico, which brings the number of Black FBS coaches back up to four.

Even with that, the numbers are dismally low, which is why BCA hired a lawyer last month to help address the dearth of Black college football coaches.

In light of hiring challenges, London is a success story.

Before arriving at Richmond, London spent six seasons molding one of the nation’s top defenses at the University of Virginia. He was also a defensive line coach with the NFL’s Houston Texans and a recruiting director at the University of Virginia.

London was also a defensive back for the team he now coaches from 1979 to 1982. He led the Spiders with six interceptions as a senior captain in 1982. In addition to earning All-State honors, London was chosen the team’s MVP and received the Coaches Award. In 1982, the Virginia Peninsula Sports Club selected him as the male in-state Athlete of the Year, according to his biography.

“He’s done an outstanding job at Richmond,” said Floyd Keith, executive director of the BCA. “For a first year coach to accomplish that, it’s awesome. And when we have our coaches have success on a national level, it keeps (the coaching disparity) issue in focus.”


Minority Head Coaches in 2008-09 Bowl Season

Head Coach

Ken Niumatalolo – Navy vs. Wake Forest

Eagle Bank Bowl, December 20, ESPN

Head Coach

Randy Shannon – Miami vs. California

Emerald Bowl, December 27, ESPN

Head Coach

Kevin Sumlin – Houston vs. Air Force

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, December 31, ESPN

Head Coach

Turner Gill – Buffalo vs. Connecticut

International Bowl, January 3, ESPN 2

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