The 2019 Members Of The Black Head Coach Fraternity

Image Credit: Getty Images

There are 13 African-American head coaches out of 130 schools in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). 

The seasoned strategists represent just 10 percent of the total coaching hires, comprising a small, Black fraternity of leaders at the highest levels of college football.

Every hire crushes stereotypes while creating a coaching pipeline for Black coaches to the NFL. 

As we kick off the 2019 College Football season, here’s the full list of Black NCAA FBS D-1 Coaches

Dino Babers (Syracuse)

Dino Babers is undoubtedly a success story for Black head coaches. In just three years at the helm, Babers has transformed a fading Syracuse program into one of the ACC’s elite squads, exhibiting his ability to strategize and recruit against power conference schools. 

The Orange went 4-8 in back-to-back seasons (2016-17) under Babers, but he turned that record around in 2018. Syracuse finished 10-3 and ranked No. 15 in the final Associated Press poll. It was the school’s first top 25 rankings since 2001. 

Babers continues to produce winning results. His success at Bowling Green (18-9 with a MAC title) and Eastern Illinois (19-7), support his props as one of college football’s top offensive minds. Guys with those kinds of tags usually end up as NFL offensive coordinators or head coaches very quickly. 

Thomas Hammock (Northern Illinois State)

January 2019 jumped off the Thomas Hammock era at NIU as the former Huskie player and assistant coach, returned home to serve as the 23rd head coach and first African-American coach in the school’s history. 

“This has always been my dream,” he said. “When I was a GA at Wisconsin [in 2003-04], I said I want to be the head coach at Northern Illinois University. The reason I wanted this job is to build a legacy,” he said. “A legacy is not what you leave behind. A legacy is what you leave within.” 

Hammock is also the first alumnus to lead the Huskies as a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program, returning to DeKalb after five seasons (2014-18) as an assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens. 

In five seasons as the running backs coach with the Ravens, Hammock helped Baltimore’s rushing attack finish in the top 11 in the NFL three times. 

Herm Edwards (Arizona State)

Herm Edwards emerged from the broadcasting booth, endured criticism and jokes at his expense, about his decision to coach college football. He then exceeded expectations by finishing 7-6, including a 5-4 Pac-12 Conference record. 

The former NFL head coach with the Jets from 2001-05 and Chiefs (2006-08), proved that he had a plan and now there is optimism in Sun Devil’s land as ASU seeks its first 10-win season since 2014. You play to win the game.

James Franklin (Penn State)

Franklin inherited a Happy Valley program dealing with the effects of NCAA scholarship sanctions and the aftermath of the Sandusky sex scandal that shook the college football world and created a civil war on the Penn State campus.   

Franklin had it rough his first two seasons, going 14-12 (2014-15). In 2016, he assured the world that he was the right choice to bring the Penn State football program back to respectability and prominence, going 11-3 and winning the Big Ten title. He followed that up with  an 11-2 record and talks of a National Title run in 2017 

The Nittany Lions are coming off another solid (9-4) season, which boosted Franklin’s overall record to 45-21 entering 2019. Penn State is officially back.

Mike Locksley (Maryland)

Despite going 3-31 in head coaching stints at New Mexico and Maryland in 2015, the Alabama OC was hired in 2018 to clean up former coach DJ Durkin’s mess and reunite the campus. 

Locksley assumed the job at a tumultuous juncture. The University of Maryland’s football program and the campus was in turmoil following Jordan McNair’s death. The 19-year-old offensive lineman collapsed from heatstroke after an offseason campus workout and died two weeks later.

Most of the early blame for the deadly incident fell on Durkin for allegedly fostering a toxic culture of intimidation and verbal abuse. It eventually reached as high as the chairman of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents. 

The chaos and indecisiveness at the top turned the Maryland campus into a war zone with students, faculty, friends, and staff divided about the university’s initial decision to reinstate Durkin. There were protests, social media assaults on the school and a strong public outcry against Durkin’s reinstatement and the underlying racial component that existed.  

So, Locksley has had to deal with a laundry list of issues outside of football while preparing for a tough ACC schedule. He joins Jon Embree (2011-12) as the only African-American coaches in Colorado Buffalo history.

Derek Mason (Vanderbilt)

After a 7-17 start, Derek Mason’s tenure at Vanderbilt has stabilized and the Commodores have won at least five games in each of the last three years and hold a 17-21 mark in that span. 

The former Northern Arizona University wide receiver was introduced to high stakes collegiate coaching by Jim Harbaugh and then David Shaw at Stanford. 

He’s had his challenges trying to build a school known for its academic prowess into a competitive SEC football program, but in 2016 and 2018 he earned bowl trips.

Mason is 24-38 overall since replacing James Franklin and his team has won three in a row over rival Tennessee. Mason is making progress with the program but he’s still seeking his first winning season. 

David Shaw (Stanford) 

David Shaw was promoted to head coach after Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL, and since his arrival, Stanford has consistently been in contention for a conference crown. 

The Cardinal are 82-26 in Shaw’s tenure since the 2011 season. Shaw is recognized as the premier Black HC in college football and has won three conference titles, even finishing No. 3 in the nation in 2015. 

Despite the challenges that come with recruiting at the “Ivy League of the West,” the Cardinals have only one season of fewer than nine wins (2014) and just three years below 10 under Shaw.  

Lovie Smith (Illinois) 

It’s safe to say that Lovie Smith is better suited for NFL coaching as he’s struggled mightily to recruit top-notch college players to a school that isn’t known for its football dominance.

He’s tied with Taggart as the highest-paid African-American coach ($5 million per year) which is 12th highest among all football coaches. 

After a 3-9 debut in 2016 with The Fighting Illini, Smith went 2-10 in ’17 and 4-8 in ’18 for a 9-27 overall record since joining the college ranks. You’ve got to figure that a guy who has a winning record and a Super Bowl appearance in 11 seasons as an NFL head coach, will figure out a way to turn the program around.

Charlie Strong (USF)

Charlie Strong is still going strong despite the roller coaster ride his career has been on. 2019 is a critical year for Strong to re-establish himself as one of the premier coaches in the country.

After getting the quick hook after three seasons at Texas (16-21) from 2014-16, Strong came to USF and went 10-2 in 2017, but dropped to 7-6 last season.

Strong’s most successful coaching stint is still his time at Louisville from 2010-13. He built them into a national powerhouse, went 37-25, played in the Sugar Bowl and had back-to-back seasons of 11 or more wins (2012-13).

Kevin Sumlin (Arizona)

You give him the right recruits and Kevin Sumlin is a proven winner. Sumlin’s first season in Tucson resulted in a disappointing 5-7 record, but the Wildcats lost four games by five points or less and QB Khalil Tate struggled with injuries.  

Prior to taking over at Arizona, Sumlin went 51-26 over six years at Texas A&M. The Aggies won 11 games in Sumlin’s 2012 debut and he became a hot name in the NFL rumor mill. Prior to that, he had a stop at Houston from 2008-11 and posted a 12-1 mark with them in 2011. 

A combination of his unwillingness to leave the college ranks and the fact that he hasn’t recorded a finish in the top 25 after the ’13 season has weakened the overall support for Sumlin as an NFL HC prospect, but he’s still considered elite and one of the highest-paid head coaches. 

Willie Taggard (Florida State)

Taggart laid an egg in his Tallahassee debut. A Florida State team that was expected to do big things stumbled to a 5-7 record and the program’s first season without a bowl since 1981.

He definitely didn’t earn his $5 million annual salary — which ties him with Lovie Smith for the highest among African-American coaches. 

Taggart’s track record, however, suggests there will be an improvement in 2019. He went 2-10 in his first year at WKU (2010) and then went 7-5 in back-to-back seasons (2011-12).

After a 6-18 start at USF, the Bulls won 18 games over the next two years. He also had a winning record during his one-year gig at Oregon (7-5) in 2017. Expect a huge improvement with the FSU program in his second season of recruiting and implementing his system. 

Mel Tucker (Colorado)

Mel Tucker, 47, is the Pac-12’s only new head coach for the 2019 season and it would be understating it to say that CU was able to nab a seasoned coaching superstar. 

Of the 27 new hires in 2019, Tucker is one of only six with a defensive background. And few if any have his experience as a college coach for eight years and then a decade as a highly-regarded NFL assistant and defensive coordinator. 

His resume is impeccable and he has a list of former bosses that include Jim Tressel, Nick Saban, and Kirby Smart. Tucker had the Midas touch as a defensive coordinator. He was part of a staff that won championships with Ohio State in 2002 and Alabama in 2015. 

As defensive coordinator for the last four years with the Georgia Bulldogs and Crimson Tide, his units never finished out of the top 20 in total defense. 

Frank Wilson (USTA)

On January 14, 2016, Frank Wilson was hired as the new head coach of the UTSA Roadrunners. Wilson replaced Larry Coker, who resigned on January 5. 

Wilson lead UTSA to their first-ever bowl game in his first season as coach. Following the season Wilson and his staff secured the #1 ranked recruiting class in C-USA according to Rivals.com rankings. 

Wilson’s first full class finished 69th in the nation. UTSA had never before finished higher than 103rd prior to this class. Prior to taking the UTSA job, Wilson had been running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisiana State University under head coach Les Miles since 2010.


Related Articles