NCAA Sets Record for Racial Progress

For the first time in college football history there are now seven black head coaches at the major programs. Former UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker made history when he accepted the job at New Mexico State, making him the fourth black head coach hired this month. The fact that seven out of 119 is a record high is still pretty weak, but progress can, should and must be applauded.

There are many who believe the issue of race and head coaching opportunities is irrelevant. Many others are simply uncomfortable discussing racial issues in any forum. I understand and accept those feelings, but I am convinced this is an issue of great importance. I know this; it's very important to most of the student-athletes I have discussed it with.

The noise that has been generated on this subject has certainly ensured that schools are cognizant of the problem. There's no question that more qualified minority coaches are getting interviews, and this year more got jobs. It is significant that three black head coaches got fired this year and four others got hired. If major college schools keep hiring four a year the subject will go away on its own just like it did in college basketball.

Only one of the seven coaches can be considered to have a top job. Randy Shannon at Miami bears the burden of the only remaining black head coach at an elite program, but if he holds up and makes Miami an ACC Champ in the next two years he could be to college football coaching opportunity what John Thompson was in basketball. Two other coaches, Kevin Sumlin at Houston and Buffalo's Turner Gil have begun producing excellent results. Both have formerly moribund programs in bowl games this year and Gil was a finalist for the Auburn job.

Two years ago the NFL basically buried the race issue in coaching opportunities when Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith coached their teams into the Super Bowl. Perhaps Randy Shannon, Kevin Sumlin or Turner Gil will eventually make history by leading a team into the BCS Title Game. Until then progress much continue to be made, and those of us critical of the history must continue to applaud those steps while encouraging bolder ones.

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