The college football world told Derek Mason, Lovie Smith and Kevin Sumlin — three of its 13 black Division I head coaches — to turn in their playbooks and leave a forwarding address for the remaining dollars left on their contracts.
Soon, the TV opinionists, radio talking heads, college football beat writers and everyone else concerned with being on the right side of Twitter will begin the process of excoriating college football as racist.
The excoriation will grow louder when the NFL’s Anthony Lynn joins his white brethren, Dan Quinn, Matt Patricia and Bill O’Brien, in the unemployment line.
In recent years, when high-profile black football coaches have failed, the coroner has never really examined their body of work in search of a cause of death. It’s as if, for black head coaches, death is expected, that there’s nothing to learn.
The prevailing wisdom among the woke is that all black problems have white solutions. Things didn’t work out for Mason at Vanderbilt, Smith at Illinois and Sumlin at Arizona because college football hasn’t hired enough black coaches.
Football is racist. Everyone knows that. The white men who coach it, organize it, fund it and select the head coaches are the modern-day Calvin Candie, the fictional Mississippi slave owner in the movie Django Unchained.
Maybe that’s all true. But I’m not sure that explains why 41 years after Wichita State made Willie Jeffries the first black man to lead a Division I football program that big-time college football has yet to produce its version of John Thompson or Nolan Richardson.
Fourteen years after Illinois State University made Will Robinson D-I’s first black basketball head coach, John Thompson won a national title at Georgetown and built a dynasty that rewarded Thompson’s top assistant coach (Craig Esherick), oldest son (John Thompson III) and greatest player (Patrick Ewing) with the head coaching position. A decade later, Nolan Richardson matched Thompson’s feat, winning a national title at Arkansas and appearing in three Final Fours. Richardson’s top assistant, Mike Anderson, would later become the head coach of the Razorbacks.
I bring all this up because I spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday this week researching, thinking about and discussing the plight of black college football coaches.
I’m amazed at how little information about black college football coaches is actually out there. It’s easy to find story after story complaining that college football decision-makers are racist or biased. Maybe I didn’t know where to look, but I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of the black men who have been named head football coach of a Division I school.
I spent a day and a half compiling my own list. By my count, 53 black men have led a Division I program. Here’s a link to my full list. Check it out. Perhaps I missed someone.
My point is everyone loves to complain about the lack of opportunity for black college football coaches. No one has actually examined what we (black men) have done with the opportunities we’ve earned and what we can learn from those successes and failures.
When it comes to black football coaches, everyone seems to agree that white racism is the problem.
Should we look any further? Should we explore any other potential complications?
In 41 years, 53 black men have been named head coach of a Division I program 74 times (some coaches have led multiple schools.) Nine of those men — Kevin Sumlin, David Shaw, Charlie Strong, James Franklin, Herm Edwards, Jimmy Lake, Ruffin McNeill, Randy Shannon and Karl Dorrell — have winning records.
So who has been the most successful?
It has to be Stanford’s David Shaw, followed by Penn State’s James Franklin, and then three guys who are sidelined as head coaches — Charlie Strong (Louisville, Texas and USF), Kevin Sumlin (Houston, Texas A&M and Arizona) and Tyrone Willingham (Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington.)
Shaw is the cream of the crop. He and Franklin are the only black coaches to win a Power Five conference title. Shaw has won the PAC-12 three times. His 2015 team finished 12-2 and ranked No. 3 in the country. Franklin won the Big Ten in 2016. Only three other black coaches have won a conference title. Turner Gill (2008), Michael Haywood (2010) and Dino Babers (2015) won the Mid-American Conference.
Shaw has won 88 games in 10 years at Stanford.
Stanford is interesting. The school has had three black coaches, all of whom would have to be considered successful. Shaw, Willingham and Denny Green, the old Minnesota Vikings coach. Willingham won 44 games at Stanford, including a 9-3 season in 2001 that landed him the Notre Dame job.
Denny Green took over a terrible Stanford program in 1989. In his second season, he upset No. 1-ranked Notre Dame. In year three, he led the Cardinal to an 8-4 season and a second place finish in the PAC-10. He then left to become the Vikings head coach.
So why have all three of Stanford’s black football coaches succeeded?
I have a theory.
Stanford isn’t a football factory. It caters to rosters filled primarily with legitimate student-athletes from stable family backgrounds. Stanford football is Duke basketball. The racial makeup of the Stanford football team is a bit different from the typical football factory.
By my rough count and estimate, Stanford’s roster is 52% white, 46% black and 2% other.
It’s easier for black coaches to lead teams filled with kids from nuclear families. Black kids from broken homes and/or with broken-father relationships struggle to submit to the leadership of black head coaches. They respond better when the ultimate authority is white or female.
I know that sounds crazy to some of you. I know that, as a member of the media, I’m supposed to just write that white racism is the explanation for every black problem.
But the reality is that insecurity and self-hatred are bigger problems for black male athletes. You can see it in their attraction to the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM is a cry for white love and a white solution to black problems. BLM is a plea for a white daddy to save black culture.
For the last 60 years, black culture has been ruled by the matriarchy, and a lack of respect and belief in black men. Kids raised by single mothers and single grandmothers have little regard for black male authority figures. Their irresponsible fathers and bitter mothers give birth to a cynicism that, if left untreated, quietly haunts the child throughout adulthood.
The culture of female dominance, leadership and worship is now the default culture of black millennials. With 75 percent of black kids born into single-parent homes, baby-mama culture — and the cynicism that goes along with it — have been imposed upon black kids from two-parent homes. In order to fit in, in order to meet “Black Twitter’s” standard of blackness, Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air must conform to the culture of the matriarchy.
In this era, the Atlanta politician Stacey Abrams would have a better chance of duplicating the Georgetown basketball dynasty than Big John Thompson.
In an effort to connect with modern black athletes and win the approval of black matriarchal culture, all coaches are being forced to conceal their authentic beliefs. They all have to bow at the shrine of Black Lives Matter and express adoration for George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, etc.
Everyone knows it’s all bullshit. Do you think Nick Saban believes Michael Brown, who wrestled for control of a police officer’s gun, was the victim of racism or the victim of bad decision-making? Do you think Saban believes criminal suspects have the right to resist arrest?
It’s all a charade. The athletes know it. A white coach can shed a tear or two inside a team meeting and pacify his players.
But for black coaches, the charade is much more serious. Their burden of BLM proof must rise above a reasonable doubt. Team meeting tears are not enough. They must issue bold and provocative public statements to the media denouncing whatever BLM has told them to denounce. They must pretend they live in daily fear of being killed by police. They must invite Dr. Harry Edwards or a local race-baiting equivalent to speak to their teams.
Black coaches must prove their blackness on command.
It’s a burden. They just want to coach football and share the values that helped them become successful. Football coaches, regardless of color, generally fit a profile. They’re stubborn, conservative, disciplined, traditional and family oriented.
David Shaw, Kevin Sumlin, Charlie Strong, James Franklin and Herm Edwards come from similar, two-parent backgrounds. Their parents were educators or members of the military or coaches. They were raised in the patriarchal culture commonplace in the 1960s and 1970s.
Today’s black matriarchy makes coaching more challenging for them. At Stanford, Shaw has the luxury of leading a locker room less hostile to strong black male leadership.
That’s my theory. Feel free to reject it. I won’t be offended. Don’t you be offended when I reject the assumption that white racism totally explains the plight of black coaches.
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