For those too enthralled with Johnny Manziel’s one-man highlight reel against now-former No. 1 Alabama, it’s worth mentioning that his coach, Kevin Sumlin, now has the inside track on the National Coach of the Year honors.
And, yes, Sumlin is the fourth black head coach in SEC history.
He follows in the footsteps of Sylvester Croom, Joker Phillips and James Franklin — albeit unknowingly for, as he tells it, he was unaware Texas A&M was joining the league when he accepted the position this offseason — and has immediately expanded upon the success of black coaches in a league oft-maligned for its negligence toward diversity coaching hires. He’s done it in spectacular fashion, too.
Sumlin just walked into the SEC’s most storied program’s backyard and dampened its dreams of a 15th national title . He’s won eight games at A&M — already tying the best single-season mark by a black coach by matching Croom’s 2007 mark.
But he’s not alone.
While it’s true that Phillips was fired this season, his third at Kentucky, Franklin has been a revelation at Vanderbilt, leading the Commodores to their second-consecutive bowl eligible season for the first time in school history. That’s no small task at an academic institution like Vanderbilt. Franklin is now one of the hottest coaching commodities in the country.
Last season, when Kentucky and Vanderbilt met, Franklin and Phillips became the first two black head coaches to meet in an SEC game. At the time, Franklin downplayed the significance by saying, in today’s culture, it’s not as noticeable.
“I hope we can get to the point real soon where it’s not even a discussion point,” he said last November.
We’re not there yet, though – not when there’s still only four minority coaches in the SEC’s long history. After all, fair or unfair, Croom and Phillips were eventually fired. And that’s where the importance of Sumlin’s and Franklin’s success could be most apparent: Success breeds imitation.
So if Sumlin takes home Coach of the Year honors, either in conference or nationally, what will the conference’s future look like on the sidelines? We hope more diverse.
MOMENT OF CLARITY
It’s that time.
For the first time this college football season, we have reached a moment of clarity, of terms well-defined. Following the stunning upset of Alabama by Texas A&M, the release of Sunday’s BCS standings laid down crystal clear guidelines: Kansas State and Oregon will play for the national championship … if they win out.
Think about this: No. 3 Notre Dame is the top-ranked team in the computer polls and still could not jump the Wildcats and Ducks. Therefore, with their computer rankings only improving — thanks to a back-loaded strength of schedule, especially for the Ducks — Oregon and Kansas State simply need to win out for a chance to play for the crystal ball. Perhaps the best-possible option for teams like Notre Dame, Alabama and even Georgia is to simply wish for Oregon and K-State’s failure.
Is the world ready for a Bill Snyder–Chip Kelly clash? In a clash of styles that could prove to be 2010-esque, Oregon’s laser-precise offense would try to outpace a deliberate, Heisman-worthy dual threat quarterback a la Cam Newton or Collin Klein. It could be close. It could easily be a blowout.
Are you not entertained?
And if you’re upset about the possibility of the SEC’s run of six-consecutive national championships coming to an end, feel free to start supporting one of its former coaches: Lane Kiffin and USC might be your best bet.