Other than the Black Coaches Association stating that hiring Turner Gill would be progress, race hasn't come up much as a prevailing issue in Tom Osborne's search for Nebraska's next head coach. Fact is, it's rarely come up with any of the head coaching searches that are happening across the college football landscape right now.
Does race matter? The NFL has a rule that requires a team seeking a new head coach to include at least one minority candidate in the interview process. The result has been more black NFL head coaches. Perhaps the NCAA needs to institute such a rule. I asked the NCAA for some clarification on their position regarding race when schools are looking for a new head coach. Here's the answers I received from Charlotte Westerhaus, the NCAA's Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion:
Question 1: What percentage of college athletes are African-American?
Answer: Overall (inclusive of Division I, II and III), 28.8% of college student athletes are African-American (18.1% - male African-Americans and 10.7 % female African-Americans).
Within Division I, 45.4% of football players are African-American. But what is most significant is that within Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, 46.9% of the football players are African-American (compared to 45.9% white) and within the Football Championship Subdivision, it is 43.5% African-Americans (compared to 48.6% white).
Question 2: Why does the NCAA think that race is a relevant issue with regards to the hiring of coaches?
Answer: The Association - through its member institutions and conferences - shares a belief and commitment to an inclusive culture that fosters equitable career opportunities for coaches from diverse backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion are NCAA core values.
The fact is that the highest percentage of football student-athletes in the Football Bowl Subdivision are African-American. Yet, only six out of the 119 head football coaches in FBS are African-American - only 5%. And it's worse in the Championship Subdivision - only four out of 122 head football coaches are African-American - only 3%.
The reason this is significant is because all football coaches have one thing in common. They were all former football student-athletes. Thus, if interest, ability and opportunity are equal, you would expect that the number of African-American head coaches would be significantly higher.
The NCAA is confident that the interest and ability among African-American football coaches, coordinators and assistant coaches is equally stellar and equal to all. Which means that the present focus must be on providing equal opportunity to African-American candidates to be interviewed and hired based on their interest and ability just like all other candidates.
Question 3: Has the NCAA set any guidelines in place when schools are looking for coaches?
Answer: The Division I Athletic Directors Association is developing a series of guidelines that will strongly encourage athletics directors to foster a diverse candidate pool for head football coaching positions. This approach is indicative of their proactive leadership and ownership of viable and effective outcomes - which will hopefully increase hiring of more head football coaches of color.
Question 4: Why do you feel there are not more African-American coaches in charge at power schools in Div IA NCAA football?
Answer: There is no reasonable explanation for this sort of disparity and reaffirms the need for university presidents, conference commissioners, and athletics directors to work collectively to hire more people of color as head football coaches.
Question 5: What changes could be made to give more African-American coaches an opportunity to become head coaches?
Answer: NCAA member institutions could and should apply the same campus and diversity and equal opportunity hiring practices that are used for faculty and staff. In the interest of supporting the best interests of an institution of higher education, college chancellors, presidents, provosts, faculty and senior administrators are hired as a result of thorough and deliberative search processes. This process enhances the consideration of a diverse pool of leaders and should apply to the hiring of a head of a head football coach.
Note the huge disparity in the numbers, 5% in the FBS (Div IA) division, and only 3% in the FCS (Div IAA) division, despite a high percentage of black players in both of these divisions.
Firings and resignations include Bill Callahan (Nebraska), Guy Morriss (Baylor), Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss), Chan Gailey (Georgia Tech), Jeff Bower (Southern Miss), Dennis Franchione (Texas A&M), and Lloyd Carr (retirement, Michigan). Names being thrown around for head coaching positions include Les Miles (LSU to Michigan?), Houston Nutt (Arkansas to Ole Miss), Mike Sherman (to Texas A&M), Brian Kelly, Paul Johnson, and Bo Pelini (Nebraska).
Of all the names being thrown about, only two are black. Karl Dorrell at UCLA, who might be fired, and Turner Gill at Buffalo, who might be hired.
Note the answer to #4 - "There is no reasonable explanation....." If there is no reasonable explanation, then we're left with the unreasonable. The worst of these is the charge of institutional racism - the idea that NCAA schools are not providing the opportunity for black coaches to advance. Remember that the NCAA does not make rules by itself, but is driven by it's member institutions so this situation will not change until the college presidents get together and institute a rule similar to that used by the NFL.
Recycling the same coaches between schools and choosing the same guys as head coaches. If the NFL can figure out a policy to include minority coaches in the hiring process, why can't the NCAA schools?