Monday, January 22, 2007

Two Black Coaches or Two Good Coaches?

With the Colts win over my adopted Patriots, a milestone (of sorts) will be reached as two black coaches face off across the field on Super Bowl Sunday. Listening to Shannon Sharpe on CBS, one is led to believe that it is only events like this that will convince team owners in the NFL or Athletic Directors in college to hire black coaches. Of course, if Sharpe's view that black coaches will only be hired once black coaches demonstrate success on the field is accurate, then no black coaches would have been previously hired as there would not be any black coaches in a position to be successful. Rather, the fact that two black coaches are squaring off in the Super Bowl is prima facie evidence that Sharpe is wrong, and that there is no glass ceiling for minority coaching candidates in the NFL.

In the PAC-10, the glass ceiling has certainly been shattered. Ty Willingham is coaching at UW after previous engagements at Notre Dame and Stanford. Karl Dorrell is starting to turn around a UCLA team that has floundered since '98. At ASU, one of the finalists for the head coaching position was Michigan's Defensive Coordinator, Ron English. His candidacy was primarily the result of a groundswell of fan support based on his quality and qualifications; not on his race. The deciding factor was Dennis Erickson's wealth of experience and Ron's comparative lack; again, race was not the issue.

This last example highlights the real reason that there are not more black head coaches in college or the pros; it takes time for individuals to develop the experience and credentials which are prerequisite to the position. As more black coaches are recognized for their skills, they will continue to advance their careers and gain the experience required to attain head coaching positions throughout the college and pro football ranks.

Which brings us to the real goal, the real milestone we're striving for; that accomplished men are defined by their accomplishments and not by their race. That along with great athletes and competitors (e.g. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Jim Thorpe, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, etc.) who have transcended categorization we might reflect on great coaches, and the additional adjectives can be dispensed with as they are without significance.

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