As the new college football season kicks off tomorrow, a subtle achievement in the sports history will take place. Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M and David Shaw of Stanford will mark the first time two Black coaches begin the season ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press top 25. A&M is currently ranked 5th while the Stanford Cardinal are 7th.
Not to be overshadowed, Charlie Strong of Louisville (ranked 13th) and James Franklin of Vanderbilt (ranked 23rd) also add to this historic moment by also marking the first time there will be four black coaches ranked in the top 25 at the same time.
Sure this is unprecedented territory for black coaches, however it further reflects the need for change in leadership positions in college athletics. Entering this season only 12 of the 120 coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) are African-American (down three from the 2012 season). In a sport where 60 percent of the players are African-American it is unfathomable that only 10 percent are head coaches.
Is this the year that will change college football history and for the first time have a black head coach win the national championship? Given the odds that Sumlin and Franklin play in the SEC, the toughest conference in football, the task seems insurmountable to some. However in Sumlin's case, having a Heisman quarterback in Johnny Manziel (if eligible) and a top 10 recruiting class this offseason, Texas A&M has a fighter's chance at the title if they can survive an early season matchup against Alabama in week 3.
On the other side of the country, David Shaw's Stanford team is the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference. Their major test will come against Oregon (currently ranked #3) on November 7th and Notre Dame (currently ranked #14) to close out the regular season. In 2012 Shaw lead his team to a 5-1 record against top 25 opponents with the one loss coming at the hands of a very controversial ending in South Bend to Notre Dame.
This leaves Charlie Strong and his Cardinals. As they currently sit right outside of the top 10, Louisville is a very intriguing pick as they will be playing in the brand new American Athletic Conference, formerly known as the Big East. Having a strength of schedule considered to be extremely favorable and returning a Heisman candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may give Strong the nod as the betting favorite to make history.
2013 is a big year for black coaches. The impact of success could ultimately lead to a much needed change in the progression of leadership positions. Here is a look at the other eight coaches among FBS schools:
Garrick McGee – Alabama-Birmingham (2nd season)
Ruffin McNeil – East Carolina (4th season)
Ron English – Eastern Michigan (5th season)
Don Treadwell – Miami-Ohio (3rd season)
Darrell Hazell – Purdue (1st season)
Willie Taggart – South Florida (1st season)
Curtis Johnson – Tulane (2nd season)
Mike London – Virginia (4th season)