Black College Football Head Coaches: The Real Reason So Few Get Hired

Michael ShibleySenior Analyst IDecember 17, 2008

The Head Coaching Carousel has been spinning in College Football since midseason and has had all kinds of casualties: Tommy Bowden at Clemson, Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee, and Tommy Tuberville at Auburn were all front page stories.

Added to that list were the black coaches that were let go this season: Ty Willingham is out at Washington, as are Ron Prince at Kansas State and Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State. No matter what termination language was used, don't be fooled. All were asked to leave.

Only three black head coaches remain in the 120-school FBS, and only one at a BCS conference school, Randy Shannon at Miami. That's indefensible, yet somehow tolerated. Shame on college football.

Meanwhile, there is one very strong black candidate for a head coaching job at a BCS school, Turner Gill.  He took over a Buffalo program that had been dreadful for decades, and in his third year as head coach he took them to 8-5 and upset then-undefeated Ball State to win the MAC Championship and go to their first bowl in school history.

Many thought that he would be a shoo-in for a major head coaching job.  Many thought he would be the next head coach at Auburn or Syracuse.  Instead, Auburn hired Gene Chizik and Syracuse appointed Doug Marrone.

Many, including Auburn alum Charles Barkley, have cried foul on the Auburn administration, citing race is the problem.  However, I believe it goes deeper than that.

When I was at the University of Tennessee, I worked at our college radio station and covered Tennessee athletics.  I was also very proud to meet many of the people in the athletic program and the boosters, who donate millions each year to athletics.

Boosters are the real reason that there are so few black head coaches in college football.  The vast majority of college boosters, especially in the South, are old, rich, white men.  While many of them will say the right things in public, they might not want to have a black man as head coach of their football program.

If a black candidate is being interviewed for a head coaching position at a school, I am sure there have been more than a few boosters who have gone to the Athletic Director and told them that they will pull their millions in funding out if they hire a black coach.  What is the AD supposed to do when that money will go to help the other athletic programs that need that money, such as Volleyball and Soccer?

I wish that was not the case, but I believe there is still a long way to go before there are more black head coaches in College Football.  Now that we have a black President, maybe things will change sooner rather than later.