College Football’s Inconvenient Truth

Based on his MAC championship turnaround of a Buffalo Bulls football team that had been the worst in Division I-A when he took over in 2005, one would think Turner Gill would have already been money-whipped by a bigger football factory school by now. But no, Syracuse passed him over for Doug Marrone, who has never been a head coach at the pro or college level (although reports say Gill wasn’t really convinced that ‘Cuse was right for him), and in one of the dumber coaching hires since I’ve been following the sport, Auburn decided on Gene Chizik for its head coaching vacancy. Yes, the same Gene Chizik who went 5-19 in two years at Iowa State.

This is the kind of environment black coaches are in, now with their ranks up to 4 out of 119 D-IA schools as head coaches.  Outside the Lines looked at the number in its Sunday report, based on an article by Dr. Richard Lapchick making recommendations on how to remedy the problem — and this was even before Chizik’s hiring.

The OTL show is in four parts. I’ll link to them, since WordPress hates outside video players not YouTube or DailyMotion:

  • Bob Ley’s tracked piece on Gill and the hiring issue
  • Discussion with Mike Locksley, the new HC at New Mexico and Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin
  • Another discussion, this time with Ohio State’s AD, a member of the board of trustees at Michigan State, and Floyd Keith, the head of the Black Coaches Association
  • Roundtable with Lapchick, an NCAA diversity administrator, and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach

OK, so you’ve likely watched all of them by this point — or I hope you have, because Schlabach made an absolutely stunning statement, or it would be to people who think we’ve somehow gotten past institutional racism in less than half a century:

“But I can tell you, Bob, two weeks ago when Tommy Tuberville was forced to resign and Turner Gill’s name came up at Auburn as a candidate, I had two coaches in the SEC tell me, ‘Turner Gill will never get that job.’  And I said, ‘Why?’ and they said, ‘He’s married to a white woman.'”

Schlabach also mentions that Florida DC Charlie Strong is also married to a white woman, and that they’re also being docked for the color of their spouse’s skin. Ley could only follow up with, “2009 and you heard that.” Horrifying. It’s nice to know that there are people, people who apparently make decisions at athletic departments and major universities, who apparently are not comfortable with Loving v. Virginia and the outcome.

I’ve noted it before and I’ll say it again: the way to fix the problem, or at least part of it, is to pay graduate assistants better. Every head coach has to start as GA, and whether black or white, they don’t make shit in terms of cash.  That’s a starter. Lapchick’s suggestion of giving prospective student-athletes information on graduation rates and how many minority coaches they have on their staffs. They need that information, cause not everyone is going to play on Sundays, but they might want to stick around the game. And you’re not gonna be a head coach in D-IA without graduating.

But Keith and BCA need to start getting legal action going, and while I loathe the idea of Congress getting involved when it has more important things to worry about, this is jarring.  Many of these schools are public institutions, and while the money to fund athletics is largely booster-based, it should not look good for a public, taxpayer-supported institution, never mind an association made up of a large number of them, to have that statistic of 4 out of 119.

It doesn’t matter if the athletic department is funded by booster money; that process of hiring should be open and transparent, in order to weed out who really is in control of the hiring process. Sumlin noted in his interview that this is why the process is different — he wouldn’t quite say that there are programs where boosters control it all, but it’s not that hard a leap to believe that — just look at Auburn’s search process.

Lapchick is right — this needs to be opened up, by legislation or by lawsuit, if necessary.

4 Responses

  1. Wow. That’s just stunning. I had no idea.

  2. Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve lived in the South for 49 of my 56 years, and you’d be surprised(or maybe you wouldn’t; I don’t know) at how many people still hold on to the “Old South values”. Yes, I know that the South doesn’t have the monopoly on racism; it’s just that the people here(yours truly being a huge exception) are so much better at it.
    As far as Sumlin’s statement goes, tell me that you don’t believe that guys like T. Boone Pickens and his ilk don’t control the athletic departments; you know they do. I’d wager that that was as much a reason for Sylvester Croom’s departure at Mississippi State as his overall record.
    Anyway, I apologize if I’ve beem rambling. Stuff like this just grates my nerves and raises my ire to the point of incoherence sometimes. Maybe it is time for the legal system to get involved. It may be the only way for this to get better.

  3. That is stunning. There’s a part of me that would like to believe it was just stupidity on Auburn’s part, but after reading that….wow…It’s amazing how some people can’t get past the simple fact of skin color and interracial marriages.

  4. It’s probably worth noting that I have no proof that AD Jay Jacobs, president Jay Gogue, or big-name trustee and booster Bobby Lowder (or any one of the bigger boosters down there) explicitly passed on Gill because they’re racists.

    But I don’t see on what criteria anyone can say Chizik is a better hire than Gill in terms of anything that matters on the field in the head coaching capacity. You can say Chizik is an “Auburn guy,” but didn’t he bail for Texas after the 2004 season and trash the school on the way out?

    Thus, either they are playing cynical in believing Auburn’s fanbase would never go for a black coach (never mind one with a white wife), or they are not comfortable with the idea personally. I’m not sure which one is worse.

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