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Wednesday, February 07, 2007
NCAA Football Racial Hiring Woes

With a resounding win on Sunday night over the Chicago Bears, Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and first African American to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory, has been widely credited with guiding his team through adversity to the promised land of World Champion. In the days following the Colt’s Super Bowl victory, Dungy has been referenced as “smart,” “classy,” a “defensive whiz,” “bright,” and “intelligent,” among so many other well deserved superlatives.

But when can we expect Dungy’s status to become "genius"? Like Bill Belichick genius? Or Bill Walsh genius? Or Mike Holmgren genius?; Or Bill Parcells genius? Or Mike Shanahan genius?; Or even Eric Mangini genius (after one season as a head coach now being widely referred to as “Mangenius”).

Do American sportswriters have difficulty calling an African American coach a genius? That superlative flies freely for successful white coaches. But how often do you hear Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith or Marvin Lewis in the same sentence as “genius.” Further, do Americans in general have trouble believing the genius that is apparent in so many people of color in everyday society?

Thankfully, Dungy has not been described as “articulate” or “clean” by any of the pundits covering the Super Bowl.

As Dungy was decisively winning Super Bowl XLI, Delaware Senator Joseph Biden stepped into a firestorm of criticism when he referred to presidential hopeful Barack Obama as “articulate” and “clean.” Biden, when asked about his potential presidential rival stated that Obama was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” America’s media jumped on Biden for perpetuating an age old stereotype that surprise should accompany a black man who is “articulate” or “clean.” “When whites use the word [articulate] in reference to blacks, it often carries a subtext of amazement, even bewilderment.” President George W. Bush just days later, also referred to Obama as “articulate.” Biden has been backtracking for days now. No word on whether Bush intends to backtrack.

Still, are Biden and Bush’s discriminatory comments symptomatic of a larger American problem that trickles all the way back to African American coaches? Biden and Bush’s use of “articulate” to describe Obama hearken back to former Dodgers’ GM Al Campanis who, when responding to a question as to why Major League Baseball did not have more black managers stated: “I don’t think it’s prejudice. I truly believe that [blacks] may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.”

While the Rooney Rule has arguably led to 20% of NFL head coaches being African American, what is the reason behind only six head coaches (out of 119 positions) in Division I NCAA football being African American (a dismal .05 % of all head coaches)? This “inexcusably low” number of minority head coaches in NCAA football cannot easily be explained away. Over 50% of all NCAA football players are African American. Black assistant coaching ranks have swelled in recent years. So, what is the source of this dismal reflection? Surely, it cannot be that current Athletic Directors' and University Presidents’ tack toward Campanis’s way of thinking? Do they simply not know who the capable black candidates are? Is the “good old boy” network perpetuating this whitewash of college football head coaching ranks?

D.L. Hughley, comedian and actor currently playing on NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” captured this conundrum beautifully in the New York Times when he said (while referring to Biden's "articulate" comment): “Everyone was up in arms about Michael Richards using the N-word, but subtle words like this are more insidious. It’s like weight loss. The last few pounds are the hardest to get rid of. It’s the last vestiges of racism that are hard to get rid of.”

When will the NCAA assist its member institutions in ridding themselves of some of the "last vestiges of racism," particuarly on the football head coaching front?

Need they be reminded: Tony Dungy is a genius.


This is similar to the studies they did back in the 80's how they describe the Black vs. White players.

Natural, Athletic, Gifted vs. Intelligent, Hard Working, Hustling.

Could the Genius tag also help explain away the white coaches bad behavior? It's OK for Belichick to not shake a coaches hand, insult another player, quit a job after one day, break up a marriage because he's a genius. You know those guys aren't really good at social situations.

Blogger Michael -- 2/08/2007 11:06 AM  

I fail to see how this posting, and its related comment, is a direct comment on sports law. Instead of being a rant couldn't it, and the related comment, focus on some type of lawsuit or action taken on behalf of minorities, rather than just getting up on a soapbox with an opinion and no legal relation?

Blogger Tag -- 2/08/2007 1:46 PM  

tag: the relationship to sports law is subtle, yet critically important. the ncaa, ever since the tarkanian case, has been given great autonomy by the federal courts to regulate, run and dictate exactly what its member institutions can and cannot do. justice stevens suggests in tarkanian, that if the member institutions do not like the law the ncaa lays down, they are free to disassociate themselves from the ncaa.

the post asks the question bluntly: what is the ncaa doing to resolve centuries old racism and discrimination against african american coaches? certainly the ncaa has the power to "order" something. yet, it continues to stand idly by while the nfl and nba lead the way in hiring and promoting minority coaches.

Blogger dré cummings -- 2/08/2007 2:40 PM  

dre - While Dungy and Lovie weren't called "articulate," there were countless remarks by Jim Nantz during the Super Bowl, and other broadcasters throughout the playoffs, about how they coached differently, that they were quiet family men who didn't swear.

I'm willing to believe that these are in fact traits possessed by both men, but I was very uncomfortable with the amount of attention their "politeness" and perceived demeanor got them.

I like the DL Hughley quote in the NY Times article as well. I might also add that we're often afraid of attaching the word racism to an action or a person, not because it's negative, but because we associate racism with the KKK and acts of violence based on race, just to give a couple of examples. This is why people respond so fervently when asked "are you a racist?"

If those in sports and covering sports were more willing to talk about racism, and if more people understood that racism isn't just Michael Richards or Paris Hilton making overtly hateful statements, it would be much easier to make progress. Does the NCAA do anything right now to promote dialogue and understanding? It might be a good place to start.

Blogger Satchmo -- 2/08/2007 3:41 PM  

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P.S. ... I need a co-author :-)

Anonymous SpyTime -- 2/08/2007 3:47 PM  

"America’s media jumped on Biden for perpetuating an age old stereotype that surprise should accompany a black man who is 'articulate' or 'clean.' 'When whites use the word [articulate] in reference to blacks, it often carries a subtext of amazement, even bewilderment.'"

I agree that "articulate" is a particularly egregious example of such a subtext. However, couldn't any laudatory adjective carry the same subtext? I don't see how "classy" is any better than "articulate." Taken to an extreme, any adjective used to complement an African-African can carry a negative connotation of surprise and bewilderment.

Blogger Michael -- 2/08/2007 4:46 PM  

Bill Belichick - creator of a modern day "dynasty"

Mike Holmgren - 3 Super Bowl rings and known for his "genius" offense (Walsh protege)

Bill Walsh - responsible for putting together and running one of the best offenses the NFL has ever seen, again an offensive "genius"

Bill Parcells - Ok, I don't have much of an excuse for him, he's not a genius, however, he has been successful with a multiple of teams.

Eric Mangini - His "genius" simply comes from his name and being a Belichick protege

While I will agree that there seems to be an unwillingness to add Dungy in the same category as the above mentioned because of the refusal to classify him as a "genius," I feel as though it could mostly be because he doesn't have a central focus of his coaching style for it.

First off, Dungy has a way to go before reaching the status of Walsh, Holmgren, and Belichick. The common thread of all of them is their offensive minds. Dungy is a defensive minded coach and I don't think the Colts defense showed this year that any "genius" was involved.

Dungy is a genius in the sense he has the ability to bring the team together as one and create a chemistry that no one else can achieve. However, that is completely different than the meaning behind the term "genius" as used in descrbing the above coaches. I feel the word belongs to a minded-scheme, not a collaborative effort that ends in winning and Dungy simply does not fit the category that the term is used to describe.

Also, I can think of at least one African-American coach that was known for being a genius. The one and only John Thompson of Georgetown.

Anonymous Shawn -- 2/09/2007 12:57 PM  

I agree with the post about Bush and Biden, etc., but I don't think omitting "genius" from Dungy's descriptors is the same issue.

I can't comment on why Mangini is on the list, but Dungy's accomplishments do not rival those of the other coaches, IMO. Not yet.

And besides, this same Tony Dungy has been called a "defensive genius" frequently. (Google it, you'll see). And that's true notwithstanding that the Colts were a poor defensive team last year, and until the playoffs this year, were one of the worst defensive squads in the entire NFL.

The problem is that in the media, superlatives have no intrinsic meaning. Everyone is a genius or bright. Every play is "absolutely incredible" or "fantastic." We're running out of things to say. All such labels are watered down.

In my own head, Parcells and Belichick are football geniuses. They repeat performances over and over, regardless of personnel turnover. But Holmgren loses a lot of big games. Shanahan does too. I couldn't pick Mangini out of a police lineup.

I think using the terms "classy" and "intelligent" to describe Dungy are closer to the insidiousness of "articulate" than the absence of the term "genius".

Blogger ChapelHeel -- 2/14/2007 3:04 PM  

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