Charlie Strong smiles at the announcement that he is the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns.
By Charles Glover, Jr.
Within a week of Charlie Strong, who is African-American, leaving the Louisville Cardinals head coaching job for the highly regarded head coaching position at the University of Texas, the Cardinals now have their replacement: Bobby Petrino. Petrino, despite his baggage, returns to Louisville, the place of his first head coaching opportunity. Lost in the conversation about both Strong and Petrino is the bigger issue: College football still has a very low number of African-American head coaches, although most of the players are African-American.
It seems as if a Rooney Rule is needed in college football to even the playing field and make it mandatory for African-American and other minorities to be considered seriously for head coaching jobs and given adequate resources and time to succeed when they are hired. At the beginning of the 2013 college football season, there were 13 African-American head coaches out of 120 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly called Division I-A) universities. While it is reported that Louisville interviewed one its African-American position coaches for the top job, it seems as if the interview was a formality and that Petrino was their first choice all along.
Stanford head coach David Shaw has a successful 34 – 7 record over 3 seasons.
The first major disparity in diversity is the small number of first chances given for head coaching opportunities to African-Americans. Some schools hire African-American coaches in various levels of the coaching hierarchy but are reluctant to appoint them at the highest levels. The next obstacle African-American coaches face is getting a second chance at head coach. To date, Tyrone Willingham is the only African-American head coach to be hired after being previously fired. The third glaring difference is African-American coaches have a hard time receiving support from university boosters, who donate millions of dollars annually to their alma maters. As universities continue to receive healthy contributions from millionaires and billionaires, it will be interesting to see how many Athletic Directors eschew negative booster input about African-American candidates in the future. The Stanford Cardinals’ success (34 wins – 7 losses in 3 full seasons) following the promotion of David Shaw to head coach, stands as a model that demonstrates schools can maintain success with first time African-American head coaches.
In the meantime, the Texas Longhorns’ hiring of Strong has been met mostly with positive skepticism. Although it is acknowledged that Strong is qualified to improve the Texas program, questions have been raised about his personality and demeanor. A senior ESPN writer states in his article on the hire, “the two coaches who won national championships at Texas, Darrell Royal and Mack Brown, possessed the back slapping, shoulder-rubbing personalities that kept a lot of rich, powerful people at bay.” As a result, the rich and powerful did not interfere with coaching decisions but with Strong being more reserved the suggestion is that his demeanor will invite all types of outside interference. So despite Strong getting the top job, he is still being placed under a microscope even before he has a chance to get acclimated to the job.
Successful businessman and Texas booster Red McCombs was outspoken about the hiring of Charlie Strong this week, implying that Strong’s hiring is a mistake.
This assessment almost seemed prophetic because a day after that article was published, (1/6/14) billionaire Red McCombs, one of the Longhorns’ most prominent boosters, expressed ‘concern” over the Charlie Strong hire. Concern might be putting it mildly, however. The former San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Vikings owner expressed in an interview on ESPN Radio that he views the hire as “a kick in the face.” McCombs continued to dismiss Strong’s impressive resume and claims that Strong could “make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator.” McCombs, who has donated over $100 million to Texas and bears his name on the Texas University business school, is likely joined with some fellow boosters in his negative view of Strong. However, other public statements have been supportive of the new head coach and his track record speaks positively for the great impact he is poised to have at the University of Texas.
Bobby Petrino returns to the Louisville Cardinals as their head coach, despite his heavy baggage.
Strong’s former school, Louisville, decided to replace him with the man who previously left them for another job shortly after assuring them he was staying. Petrino has had plenty of success as a college head coach, amassing an 83 – 30 win-loss record over his coaching career. If it weren’t for his character flaws and the circumstances under which he left Louisville in the first place, the hire would likely be unanimously supported.
Those who have followed Petrino’s career have seen him taint his on field success with enigmatic decisions such as quitting on his team mid-season and trying to cover up a motorcycle accident with his mistress on board. The Cardinals are making the statement by hiring him a second time that winning is the most important factor at their program. Louisville’s athletic director said that he is adamant in his desire to make the Cardinals’ football head coach position a “destination job.” It remains to be seen what else comes along with Bobby Petrino as he makes the Cardinals program his next destination.
College football continues to see advances that were previously thought to be unimaginable. The Heisman Trophy has been awarded to redshirt freshmen in consecutive years. Hopefully, Charlie Strong and David Shaw convince decision makers that African-American head coaches can have continued success–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.