Black College Coaches, Players Stand Against Systemic Racism
With COVID-19 threatening to postpone or cancel the entire NCAA College Football season this Fall, sacking social injustice and racial inequality has become the daily game plan for Black coaches and players alike.
Capitalizing on the momentum that African-American members of the sports and business communities have gained since the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests (which opened America’s eyes to lingering issues in this country that need to be addressed) Maryland head coach Mike Locksley has formed the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches to help increase minority hiring in college and professional football.
I’m so excited & Blessed 🙏🏾to be an official member of The National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches @NCMFC1 serving as a member of the Executive Committee. SpecialThx @CoachLocks for this opportunity & I’m excited to get to work #JoinTheCoalition #NCMFC pic.twitter.com/vMHh8olu2Y
— Alonzo “Zo” Carter (@RealCoachCarter) August 7, 2020
Locksley, 50, founded the coalition due to his disappointment over the low numbers of minority coaches hired in the sport. According to its website, the nonprofit group will look to “remove the roadblocks to coaching opportunities for minorities through innovative programming, networking and first of its kind promotion strategies.”
This is a perfect time for Locksley to form the NCMFC. It comes as a group of Pac-12 athletes are uniting to force the NCAA to recognize their concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, treatment of players by white coaches and racial injustice. Locksley’s organization will address similar issues.
“When I took the Maryland job last year and looked at the landscape of college football, I thought to myself, ‘There’s something missing. I’m on the back nine of my career and the pathway to becoming a head coach is still as difficult as when I got into the business in 1992,’ ” Locksley told NFL.com‘s Jim Trotter. “I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level.”
Just 10.77 % Of Coaches At Elite Football Universities Are Black
At the beginning of the 2019 college football season, there were just 14 African-American head coaches out of the 130 schools in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
These seasoned strategists represented just 10.77 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. A pipeline that in the opinion of many people, is developing way too slowly and still overlooking qualified Black candidates.
Oddly, as the world has gotten more progressive and inclusive, the number of Black D-1 football coaches has decreased.
There were only 15 head football coaches of color in the 2013 season, down from 18 the previous season. The all-time high of 19 was set during the 2011-12 academic year. Entering what may or not be the 2020 college football season — depending on how COID-19 continues to affect the sports landscape — the number of head coaches who are African-American remains at 14.
Finding qualified and experienced coaching candidates is not a problem. Systemic racism and racial inequality continue to hinder the hiring process for Black coaches and the inequity in leadership opportunity is evident as Black athletes comprise about half of the revenue-generating football players at these schools. In the NFL, where there are just three Black head coaches (Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin, the Los Angeles Chargers’ Anthony Lynn and the Miami Dolphins’ Brian Flores), the number of Black players jumps to over 70 percent.
Locksley is one of the fortunate few. 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 when the program was in turmoil following Jordan McNair’s death. The 19-year-old offensive lineman collapsed from heat stroke 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 Regent and created a racial divide on campus.
Highlighting Qualified Candidates
According to Sports Illustrated, “The Coalition will also put together a list of candidates that will be vetted by its board of directors. The board includes some of the top names in football, including former Hall of Famer and Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois.
“These are all people that have either hired head coaches or coordinators or filled upper-level positions throughout their careers,” Locksley said. “We want to use their experiences to help us formulate and produce the list of qualified candidates, so when people say there aren’t enough minorities to fill the positions that have come open over the years, we’re going to produce a list of qualified people that shows there are qualified people.”
Locksely’s plan is similar to what The Fritz Pollard Alliance has been doing with its “Ready For NFL” List. While that list is compiled by an outside organization and serves merely as a starting point for owners willing to step outside of their cultural box when looking for prospective candidates, Locksely’s coalition is better positioned to instigate change from within the coaching ranks and draw from the greatest minds in the game.
#Alabama Nick Saban named to board of National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches created by former Tide assistant
— privateofficer (@privateofficer) August 9, 2020
Here’s a list of the 14 Black FBS Head Coaches
Kevin Sumlin (Arizona)
Herman Edwards (Arizona State)
Karl Dorrell (Colorado)
Willie Taggart (Florida Atlantic)
Lovie Smith (Illinois)
Mike Locksley (Maryland)
Frank Wilson (McNeese State)
Mel Tucker (Michigan State)
Thomas Hammock (Northern Illinois State)
David Shaw (Stanford)
Dino Babers (Syracuse)
Jay Norvell (University of Nevada, Reno)
Derek Mason (Vanderbilt)
Creating A Pipeline of Black Coaching Talent
Locksley has been trying to address the issue of minority coaching in college football for years, but the time was never as ripe for action and results as now. He first started thinking of developing a version of the Coalition in 2018, when he was Alabama’s offensive coordinator. OC is a coaching gig that often fastracks candidates up the pipeline to NFL head coaches and very few Black men at the college and pro levels hold these positions.
According to SI.com, “After seeing qualified minority coaches being overlooked for head coaching and coordinator jobs, he put together the QuarterBlack Symposium with his friends Pep Hamilton, currently the Los Angeles Chargers’ quarterbacks coach, and lawyer Thomas Bundy. The Symposium created a network of minority coaches and the NFL later adopted the program and turned it into The Quarterback Coaching Summit.”
An organization such as the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches is long overdue. The coaches have to get together, speak up for themselves, and help influence and dictate policy to end systemic racism in hiring practices.