Reason for Lack of Black Coaches in College Football: Irresponsible Journalism?

Joe PawlikowskiContributor INovember 18, 2008
Once again, the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) has released a report regarding the lack of hiring minority head coaches in college football.  This report, released a week ago, in short stated there were 31 head coaching vacancies in the two levels of Division I last year.  While a third of the candidates were minorities, only four were actually hired. 
This stat appears alarming and reeks of racial bias, ignorance, and subconscious preference to hire those who have similar physical characteristics.
I will preface my argument by saying that I am aware that racism is still very prevalent in our society and to some extent will always exist.  I believe diversity in the workplace can only benefit society in a positive manner, provided the most qualified candidates are hired consistently.  
I also believe the manner in which some journalists have addressed this issue is completely irresponsible.  Implications and assumptions plague their viewpoints while omitting crucial facts that can be uncovered via analysis by the casual sports fan. 
I will get back to the reporting in a second, but first I will provide some background.  In 2002 the NFL adopted the "Rooney Rule" (named after longtime Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney), which required all teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching vacancies.
Since then the number of black head coaches has increased from two to seven (including Mike Singletary, who recently was named interim head coach of the San Francisco 49ers).  College football followed suit and this year provided a grading system for schools in their head coach selection process. 
"In the world of college football, the facts and statistics reflect an unmistakable bias and a systemic problem that has yet to be fixed. My deep concern is, 'Why are the college football hiring practices out of sync?'" said BCA executive director Floyd Keith, who did not have an answer to that question.
I think the key part of this quote is the fact that he did not have an answer to his own question regarding the hiring practices, yet he claims there is an "unmistakable bias."
This leads me to my most likely unpopular translation: "Only four out of 31 head coaching vacancies were filled by blacks.  This seems very low and unfair to minority assistant coaches who are trying to advance in this profession.  We will assume that the other 27 athletic directors were reluctant to hire a black coach because of his race, but we cannot provide a concrete example or any evidence that could potentially support this claim, nor can we prove that a white candidate was hired over a more qualified black candidate for the aforementioned reason." 
My agenda is not one of race or trying to defend those who appear to be defenseless.  My motivation to take this stance is based on one of the simple rules of journalism: report the facts.  The facts are that only four out of 31 coaching vacancies were filled by blacks, and any claim beyond that is speculation as far as I can tell.
Maybe there are examples that I simply did not uncover of unfair treatment of minorities.  I'll admit I could have done much more research.  However, I do need to address a writer that provides very weak examples and implications of racial bias. 
Gene Wojciechowski, a writer for, wrote a column with some one-sided statistics: 5.04 percent of FBS coaches are black, while 31 of 255 offensive and defensive coordinators are black.  Also 312 of 1,018 assistant coaches are black.  This does not seem right in his eyes, and quite frankly, it doesn't seem right to me either.
But his reasoning is absolutely wrong.  He proceeds to say that, "It's wrong because, admit or not, the unspoken rules seem to be different for minority coaches." 
This view is most likely supported by the majority, and there is no point in arguing whether or not this is a broad assumption.  I will argue his example to support this claim is absolutely absurd.
He refers to the Notre Dame coaching situation in which Ty Willingham was the only Notre Dame football coach in the modern era to be fired before the completion of his contract.  His successor, Charlie Weis, received a contract extension after seven games that runs through 2015, despite their records being nearly identical after their first three seasons at Notre Dame. 
Mr. Wojciechowski does an excellent job of reporting facts that appear on the surface to support his implication of racial bias.  What he fails to do is provide any further context to this particular situation which might provide evidence to the contrary.  I will go ahead and do that now.  Just to let you know, all of the information I am about to share can be uncovered on rather easily.
Charlie Weis came to Notre Dame in 2005, fresh off a Super Bowl victory as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator.  Romeo Crennel, who is black, was the defensive coordinator and became head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Weis's first two games were wins over No. 23 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Michigan, both on the road.  They proceeded to beat a ranked Purdue team on the road as well.  By the time Weis received his extension, Notre Dame was 5-2.  They also took juggernaut USC to the last play of the game on the road and lost.  Coming off Ty Willingham's last season at 6-6, this was considered an immense improvement.
How can you conceivably argue that the courses of action to fire Willingham and extend Weis's contract had absolutely anything to do with race?  Willingham's last season was an even .500 for a program that demands winning.
Circumstances have changed for Weis since then, but at the time of his extension it appeared he had returned the program to the nation's elite—not to mention his unprecedented track record and the potential threat of a NFL head coaching position opening up before Notre Dame extended his contract.
The program has regressed since then, but could Notre Dame anticipate it?  Did they prefer to extend the contract of a coach because he is white, or did they want to lock up a coach who was the most coveted candidate of any struggling NFL team (or for that matter any college program going through the same struggles Notre Dame did and could win a bidding war)?
The paragraph concludes that Kansas State coach Ron Prince "resigned" before the end of his third season.  I would love to know why resigned needs quotes around it.  Are you assuming this was also a decision based on race?  He didn't really "resign"—he was forced out because he was black?
I'll tell you what "resigned" means: It means the school wants to fire you, and you agree to either resign or part ways at the end of the year based on mutual agreement.  It is a nice way of putting it.  It typically saves embarrassment despite the fact that everyone knows what it means—and you know what?  It happens all of the time now in college football, white or black. 
Just ask Phillip Fulmer, head coach of Tennessee.  Ron Prince finished 7-6 in his first year, 5-7 in his second year, and his team is currently 4-7 with a 1-6 record in the conference.  The Volunteers are currently 3-7 but also won the National Championship in 1998 under Philip Fulmer.  If they finish this year with a losing record, it will only be the second out of 11 under Fulmer.
Who deserves to be forced out midseason more?  I'll go with Prince, and that's based on the wins and the losses, not the blacks and the whites. 
I say that believing that both coaches should probably be let go, although it is a very popular belief that in college football a national championship gives you a much wider margin for error.
Personally I believe more in, "What have you done for me lately?"  Especially when referring to a historically powerhouse program such as Tennessee, whose fans expect to compete for the national title every year.  But I hope I made my point.
I don't mean to pick on Prince.  There could have been other factors involved in his lack of success at Kansas State unbeknown to me.  He may bounce back and his next coaching stint may be great, and I really hope it happens for him.  I just don't want him referred to as a poster child for black coaches who got the shaft in college football when it simply isn't true.
Like I said, this happens all of the time in college football today.  Whether or not it is fair can be questioned.  Whether or not it is a racial matter cannot. 
This is simply irresponsible journalism, and Mr. Wojciechowski needs to be held accountable.  It is easy to persecute those who are perceived to be racist, but what about the writers?  Can we make severe accusations without significant evidence?
One of the chief rules of journalism is to report the facts.  Facts were reported in this instance, but they were twisted in such a way to create an extremely unjust indictment. 


    Athlon's 2018 All-Pac-12 Team

    Washington Huskies Football logo
    Washington Huskies Football

    Athlon's 2018 All-Pac-12 Team

    Athlon's All-Big 12 Team for 2018

    Kansas State Football logo
    Kansas State Football

    Athlon's All-Big 12 Team for 2018

    Players Poised for Big Bounce-Back Seasons

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Players Poised for Big Bounce-Back Seasons

    Kerry Miller
    via Bleacher Report

    Why McNair Lost the Defamation Lawsuit

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Why McNair Lost the Defamation Lawsuit