James Franklin, Marcus Freeman Race To Become The First Black Coach To Win CFB National Title | Top-10 Recruiting Classes Help

Penn State's James Franklin and Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman have legitimate shots to become the first Black HC of a Power 5 School to win a CFB national championship. (Photo: Getty Images)

No Black coach has ever won a college football national championship. Many believed 2013 was the year for that to change with David Shaw roaming the sidelines at Stanford and Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, having just defeated defending champion Alabama in Sumlin’s first year in the SEC.

There was also championship optimism for Charlie Strong, the first and last Black man to lead the Texas Longhorns. None of that came to fruition as Sumlin and Strong fizzled out, with Shaw still presently leading the Cardinals.

Texas Doesn’t Deserve What Charlie Strong Represents


As you look around the college football landscape, there aren’t many Black coaches. Black coaches leading Power 5 programs are almost nonexistent. Outside of James Franklin at Penn State, Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame and Mel Tucker at Michigan State, you don’t have many others with recruiting classes deep enough to put them into position to possibly have a shot at competing for a title.

After last week’s early signing period the Penn State Nittany Lions and Notre Dame Fighting Irish sit at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, in the recruiting rankings, according to USA Today. The results are usually plentiful when you can recruit at that level.

Franklin Signs 23 Players During Early Signing Period

During last week’s early signing period, Franklin and the Nittany Lions signed 23 of their 24 commitments. Their biggest signing came in the form of five-star QB Drew Allar, a hefty 6-foot-4 pocket passer from Ohio. Why is this signing so significant? That’s the position which has held Penn State back in years past. Allar is the No. 1-ranked signal caller in the 2022 class, and the hope is he can fix the Nittany Lions’ issues at the game’s most important position.

In 2018, the Nittany Lions thought they had Justin Fields locked up, only to see him de-commit and join his home state Georgia Bulldogs. After one season he transferred to Ohio State and proceeded to torch Penn State in back-to-back blowout wins. That turn of events was just salt in the wounds of Franklin, who missed out on the highly-touted five-star product.

That allowed QB Sean Clifford to take the reins the past few seasons, and let’s just say it’s been a train wreck for the most part. Not since Franklin landed current NFL Rookie of the Year front-runner and DPOY candidate Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys) in 2018, has he had a recruit who can instantly change the trajectory of a program. Allar is that type of talent.

With Franklin locked in for 10 years and at least $70M, the Penn State boosters expect him to land the elite players and hit on the recruits he signs. Nine-win seasons won’t cut it anymore.

Black Bags In Abundance | Penn State’s James Franklin Follows Mel Tucker, Scores Another Record Deal For Black College Football Coach

In the Big Ten East, which is only rivaled by the SEC West as the premiere college football division, Penn State has to play Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State annually. That’s a tough gantlet even with a solid quarterback. It’s doomsday without one. Franklin needs Allar to be the truth, because the rest of the roster is littered with talent capable of competing and beating the best in college football. It’s CFP or bust in Happy Valley.

Freeman Keeps It Going In South Bend

‘My Defense Coordinator Is Black & He’s Going To Be The Next Head Coach’ | Let’s Hope Marcus Freeman Lasts Longer Than Tyrone Willingham Did At Notre Dame

Marcus Freeman just became the head coach of Notre Dame less than two weeks ago, but that didn’t stop the team’s former defensive coordinator from landing a top-10 class during the early signing period. With Freeman already being an integral part of the staff, the 35-year-old had the inside track on all of the Fighting Irish recruits under former coach Brian Kelly

Freeman Puts His Mark On Notre Dame Program With Recruit Jaylen Sneed

In fact, Freeman was the main recruiter for the program’s top recruit, five-star linebacker Jaylen Sneed, who’s also the No. 35-ranked player in the 2022 class. In all, the Irish signed 21 players during the early signing period. Great gets for Freeman right out of the gate.

Freeman had the inside track on Sneed in large part due to the great relationship he has with the stud linebacker’s high school coach. Sneed was thought to be headed to South Carolina, being that he’s the state’s top-ranked player. The Irish intend to play the bell cow of their recruiting class right away and rely on him heavily as they did Cleveland Browns rookie sensation Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah when he was roaming South Bend.

“From his cover skills to his ultra-violent striking ability to his incredible range, this is the ultimate linebacker recruit.”

When you take into consideration what the Fighting Irish consistently churns out on the offensive line, this team will always pride itself in being physical. Freeman is a no-nonsense coach who won’t allow that level of physicality to change. He’s known as a player’s coach, but he definitely draws the line between leader and player.

James Franklin and Marcus Freeman are in positions that no Black coach in the history of college football has been afforded. The race to make history as the first African-American sideline stalker to ever win a national championship is legitimately on and popping.

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JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.