I began covering college football in 1987. Nick Saban wouldn’t be a head coach for another three years. Mack Brown had 11 career victories.
The first story I wrote about the lack of racial diversity among major college football head coaches ran in 1992. The number of Black head coaches in major college football that year had shrunk from three to zero. I thought the story — actually a series of stories for The Dallas Morning News — broke new ground. I thought college football would break new ground. I thought the new generation of coaches — my generation — would be judged on merit alone.
Revisiting the lack of diversity in college football coaching has become an annual chestnut of what we journalists refer to as enterprise reporting. Many of my colleagues have written on the topic. I wrote about it again at New York Newsday in 1996 and have revisited the issue more than once since then. Here it is, now 2020, literally a generation later. Nick Saban is in his 25th season as a college head coach. Mack Brown has 257 career victories. Other than Saban and Brown, there isn’t much else that is familiar about college football then and now.
Offenses no longer huddle.
Defenses no longer tackle.
Coordinators make millions.
Don’t get me started about realignment.
But nothing is more evergreen than the lack of diversity among college football head coaches.
This year, there are 14 Black head coaches among 130 FBS programs. Oops, Vanderbilt just fired Derek Mason this past weekend; make it 13. While that’s 13 more than there were in 1992, it also means that only 10% of the programs have Black head coaches in a sport in which nearly half the players are Black, according to the NCAA Race and Gender Demographics Database. In the SEC, 61% of players are Black, and now that Vanderbilt has fired Mason, two of the Power 5 conferences — the SEC and the Big 12 — do not have a Black head coach. In the year 2020. And with hiring season about to begin anew, there’s no expectation of much changing.
Over the past few months, I asked commissioners, athletic directors, university administrators and, of course, college football coaches why we lost a generation — why my generation, the administrators my age, failed to make any headway on the issue. Everybody has talked the talk for nearly 30 years. The walk? Not so much.
“I don’t think there is an answer,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw, who has won more games (87) and conference titles (three) than any other Black head coach in FBS history.
“It’s a great question,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who, as