Only 11 Out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision Coaches are Black

James Franklin, center, who spent three years as Vanderbilt's head coach before moving on to Penn State, is a rarity among African-American coaches. (Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
James Franklin, center, who spent three years as Vanderbilt’s head coach before moving on to Penn State, is a rarity among African-American coaches. (Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Several years ago, David Williams, the athletic director at Vanderbilt, was approached by Kansas State’s offensive coordinator at a gathering for young minority assistant football coaches.

“He came up to me,” Williams recalled, “and said, ‘Hi, my name is James Franklin, I’m an assistant coach, and I just wanted to meet you because I wanted you to know who I am and for me to know you, because one day I’m going to be a head coach.’ ”

A few years later, Williams hired Franklin to be Vanderbilt’s head football coach. After a three-year run, during which Franklin’s Commodores went 24-15, he was named the coach at Penn State.

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But this feel-good story stands out mainly for its rarity. As another season’s round of hirings comes to a close, it is apparent that minority coaches, particularly African-Americans, remain underrepresented in head coaching positions in the top tier of college football.

Though some vacancies remain, there are only 13 minority head coaches — 11 of them black — among the 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, according to calculations by Richard Lapchick, who leads the sports business management program at the University of Central Florida. As recently as 2011, there were 17 black coaches, and 19 minorities over all.

Despite good intentions and even proactive steps — like the annual gathering where Williams met Franklin, an event that is now run by the N.C.A.A. and known as the Champion Forum — the dearth of black head coaches in 2015 in a sport in which the majority of players are black has left many observers angry and exasperated.

“We tend to talk about that, but the needle doesn’t seem to move,” said Kevin White, the athletic director at Duke.

The percentage of black head coaches in college football (less than 9 percent) is even lower than the N.F.L.’s rate of 16 percent (five of 32). Among the 65 programs in the so-called Big 5 conferences, seven employ black head coaches.

“I would say to you the numbers are staggering,” Williams said.

They got worse during the past few weeks. Mike London (Virginia) resigned; Curtis Johnson (Tulane) and Ruffin McNeill (East Carolina) were fired; and Mike Locksley, Maryland’s interim coach, was effectively demoted with the hiring of the Michigan defensive coordinator D. J. Durkin. Three black coaches were hired: Dino Babers at Syracuse; Mike Jinks, to replace Babers, at Bowling Green; and Scottie Montgomery, to replace McNeill, at East Carolina. Norm Chow, who is of Chinese and Hawaiian descent, was let go as Hawaii’s coach.

Writing for The Washington Post’s PostEverything blog last week, the agent Donald H. Yee, who represents players and coaches, criticized the college sports establishment for a situation that he said gave young black coaches little chance of landing (or keeping) top jobs.

Observers say this is about more than optics, and even about more than the 53.4 percent of F.B.S. players who, according to Lapchick, are black.

Mike Slive, who as commissioner presided over the Southeastern Conference’s rise to one of the most successful and richest leagues in the country, has said that his proudest moment was Mississippi State’s hiring of Sylvester Croom as the SEC’s first black head football coach, in December 2003.

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The New York Times

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