Welcome to Black History Month, where not much has changed in SEC football management since Martin Luther King last spoke 53 football seasons ago.
No Black head coaches back in 1968.
None presently, despite an expansion from 10 to 14 universities.
The ACC has one Black head coach: Dino Babers at Syracuse. That’s exactly one more than all the current ACC schools had during John Heisman’s last year as Clemson head coach — in 1903.
This ridiculousness is a nationwide thing as 14 of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches were Black in 2020.
The pre-2021 season hiring cycle is sad: Three Black head coaches were fired — Derek Mason (Vanderbilt), Lovie Smith (Illinois), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona) — and only one of the 14 FBS head coach hires this offseason is Black (Marshall’s Charles Huff).
There is still one FBS head coach job open, at Central Florida. UCF, coincidentally, is where Richard Lapchick is Director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and President of The Institute for Sport and Social Justice at the school’s College of Business Administration.
Lapchick is understandably disgusted.
“I have worked in higher education for 51 years,” Lapchick, the son of the late Hall of Fame basketball coach Joe Lapchick, told The Post and Courier. “It is embarrassing for me to continually report that college sport has the worst record of all who we cover in the Racial and Gender Report Cards. It will not get better until we adopt a rule on hiring practices that mandates a diverse pool of final candidates for all senior level jobs in the athletic department including head coaches.”
Six ways to make progress:
1. More coordinators
Sylvester Croom, the former Alabama player who became the SEC’s first Black head coach when hired at Mississippi State in 2004, nailed it during a recent appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show.
“There are not enough candidates in the pipeline,” Croom said.
Just six Black offensive coordinators and seven Black defensive coordinators among the 65 Power 5 conference programs (ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12) in 2020.
That there were a total of 14 more Black coaches with “co-coordinator” titles is encouraging.
But Clemson’s Tony Elliott was the ACC’s only Black offensive coordinator.
And South Carolina replacing one Black defensive coordinator (Travaris Robinson) with another (Clayton White)? Very unusual.
2. Build relationships
Mike Krzyzewski has been saying Duke’s basketball success “is about relationships” for years.
Most top coaches and corporate executives repeat the mantra.
Fraternities and sororities certainly get it. They are great at forging lifelong personal and business relationships and have been at it for generations. They are also almost exclusively White, as are major college football booster groups.
University presidents and conference commissioners serious about relationship-building should see to it that Black assistant coaches meet formally from time to time with boosters at meetings and informally at social events.
While also formally forcing frats and sororities to seriously embrace diversity.
3. ‘Whatever we call it’
The NFL has the Rooney Rule, named after late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate per head coach opening.
The Eddie Robinson Rule, named after the late Grambling head coach, is a proposal that would require schools to follow the Rooney Rule for all athletic department leadership positions.
The West Coast Conference in August adopted the Russell Rule, honoring former University of San Francisco and Boston Celtics basketball great Bill Russell, with Rooney and Robinson language.
“Whatever we call it, we need it,” said Lapchick, who has been pushing the concept for 20 years. “And we need athlete activists to shift their attention to also include hiring practices in pro and college sport. That will be the game-changer.”
4. Meet the parents
How about start using a committee of players’ parents as consultants when hiring a new head coach?
You wanted their young men and women to play for your school and you want them to stick around when coaching changes are made. Why not respect their input on leadership?
Not all of these parents would be Black, but a fair representation of the player pool.
5. Seats at the table
Donors and fans in the stands at college football games are almost all White except for the players’ parents section.
So start aggressively recruiting Black business owners and young professionals in an effort to get them invested. Let them know they will have a voice.
6. Stop muzzling coaches
Nick Saban, for all his class and glory as the greatest college football coach ever, has a serious flaw in generally not allowing assistant coaches to talk to the media during the season. It’s a policy Saban staffers often take to other schools, theoretically for “speak with one voice” and time-management reasons.
Saban assistants get jobs because they work for Saban. Hiding assistant coaches at other places only limits their career growth in areas such as public presence, media relations and self-promotion.
But not all the recent news about former Black college assistant coaches is bad.
Brian Johnson, offensive coordinator at Florida last season, had a head coach interview at South Carolina in December and got a new job last week.
Maurice Drayton, former Citadel defensive back and defensive coordinator, just got a promotion.
It’s just that Johnson and Drayton are working in the NFL, Johnson as Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach and Drayton as Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator.
It would be great to see these guys back in college football as head coaches.
Great, too, to see the sport make more strides in the next few years than it has made since John Heisman was coaching and Martin Luther King was talking.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff