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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.