Black Coaches Help Launch Groundbreaking College Football Season

The 2010 college football season has more Blacks leading Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams as head coaches than ever before. African-Americans lead 13 of the 120 FBS teams. Last year, the FBS counted 10 Blacks as head coaches.

It shouldn’t be hard for fans to notice the increased presence of African-American head coaches especially since many of their games, like last week’s matchup between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, will likely draw considerable scrutiny. Incidentally, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Louisville’s Charlie Strong are first-time head coaches in their rookie years.  

The opening college football weekend also saw first-year head coaching starts by Kansas’ Turner Gill, Virginia’s Mike London, Western Kentucky’s Willie Taggart, Memphis’ Larry Porter, and East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeil. Returning coaches such as the University of Miami’s Randy Shannon, Miami University of Ohio’s Mike Haywood, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, Eastern Michigan’s Ron English, and New Mexico’s Mike Locksley also saw action by their respective teams this past week. This weekend, second-year coach DeWayne Walker will lead New Mexico State University in its season opener against visiting San Diego State University.

In addition, three FBS college games unfolding Saturday will match opposing Black-coach-led teams. Those matchups are Western Kentucky and Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and Miami of Ohio, and Memphis and East Carolina. In what will likely be the nation’s most-watched contest this weekend,  Shannon will take his No. 12 Hurricanes on the road to battle No. 2 Ohio State University.

Among the high hopes for these coaches is a sense by observers that college football is gaining new smarts on diversity. While Blacks are slightly more than 10 percent of the FBS head coaches, the percentage of Black players in the FBS is 47 percent, according to NCAA data.

“It’s coming,” Tony Dungy, the first Black head coach to win a Super Bowl, recently told the Associated Press.  “Now is it fast enough? Is it everything we’d like to see? No. But these new guys will come in and do a great job, and they’ll pave the way for others.”

Programs and academies, such as the NCAA Football Coaches Academy, have been instrumental in helping African-Americans and other minorities gain experience with handling the complex mix of responsibilities involved with being a head coach.

“You’ve got to be ready,” Taggart told the Associated Press. “Most guys don’t get jobs because they’re not ready. That was something that stuck with me. You’ve got to make it hard for them to tell you ‘No.”’

At 33, Taggart is the youngest FBS coach in the country. Following his team’s 49-10 loss last week at No. 8 Nebraska, he expressed gratitude for his opportunity rather than disappointment about defeat.

“Before I gave the pregame speech, I had to take a minute and just breathe in a little bit,” he told the Daily News of Bowling Green, Ky. “But it was fun. It was another football game. I was just making a lot more decisions than I ever have before.”