Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Recruits have power to affect hiring decisions

There's a lot of truth to the sports cliche: Coaches are hired to be fired. However, there seems to be a prerequisite when it comes to black college football coaches that they be successful. That seems unfair when white coaches are hired, fired and re-hired without being painted with the same broad brush as their black counterparts.

In a sport where about 50 percent of the players are black, there are currently two black football coaches out of 117 Division I-A schools following the recent dismissals of three black coaches, most notably Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame.

The lack of progress made in hiring black college football coaches is contradictory when you consider the success of black college basketball coaches.

Some have been quite successful. John Thompson, Tubby Smith and Nolan Richardson won national championships.

Black basketball coaches have become almost as commonplace as black basketball players. That's why there was no public uproar when Southern California fired black basketball coach Henry Bibby last week.

Yet university and college presidents, athletic directors, administrators and boosters, who are overwhelmingly white, express concerns that a black football coach will be under too much pressure to succeed.

You can't take two black coaches out of 117 and use them as the measuring stick for an entire race.

Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association (BCA), said progress won't be made until college decision-makers accept that change is not only inevitable, but that there will be consequences if the coaching numbers remain at the poverty level.

Keith said the BCA encourages black high school athletes and their families to consider the hiring practices of the schools recruiting them. The BCA released its first annual "report card" in October evaluating the 14 I-A schools that had football coaching vacancies last offseason. One black coach - Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State - was hired.

"I think what the [black] community has to understand is, they have value. They have value because of their ability," Keith said. "Their strength is in the fact that they can choose where they go to school. If they don't hold those institutions accountable for being exclusive, instead of being inclusive, the numbers won't change.

"Why perpetuate the problem by going someplace where they already tell you how they're going to treat you?"

A few years ago, NFL Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr. refused to sign a letter-of-intent for his son, Kellen Jr., one of the most heavily recruited high school players in the country, to attend the University of Washington. Kellen Sr. wasn't comfortable with the racial composition of the coaching staff and the athletic support staff at Washington.

Kellen Sr. eventually signed a letter-of intent for his son to attend the University of Miami because of a comfort level resulting from the Hurricanes employing a black defensive coordinator and a black receivers coach who was directly involved in Winslow's recruitment.

Kellen Jr. is a rookie tight end with the Cleveland Browns. He wants to coach when he's finished playing. That's one reason he selected Miami.

What if other black football recruits elected to use Winslow's blueprint?

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