Blog Entry

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Posted on: January 16, 2012 2:06 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 2:18 pm

Posted by Bryan Fischer

When milestones are being broken and they lack notoriety, does that make them less of a milestone?

It's an intriguing question to ask on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with regards to the hiring of African-American head coaches in college football.

In the case of new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, perhaps it is best to see the arrival of yet another black coach - to the SEC no less - not as a milestone in itself but rather as a significant sign of progress with how far the sport has come. King's famous "I have a dream" speech 49 years ago called for racial equality along with an end to discrimination and, when looking at this hire, that seems to be truer now than it was just three or four years ago.

"I think it's significant progress," Sumlin said last week at the AFCA Coaches Convention about the lack of race being brought up with regards to his hire. "I can remember four or five years ago when I was hired at Houston, 'The first... the first... the first...' I said at the press conference that my hope five, six, seven years from now that it wouldn't even be a topic of discussion."

As Birmingham News columnist Jon Solomon notes, The Associated Press didn't mention Sumlin becoming the first black head football coach at Texas A&M until the 11th paragraph. While it's certainly possible Sumlin's hire might have brought up the discussion behind closed doors in College Station, there was no dwelling on his skin color when making the hire in public. Race was mentioned in passing because it wasn't a positive or negative in filling the job because Sumlin was judged on his merits as a head coach.

"They only talk about coaches two ways, moving on and getting hired or moving out and getting fired," he said with a chuckle. "When it gets to those deals now, race isn't part of the discussion."

Kentucky head coach Joke Phillips (above) played Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin in 2011 in the first ever meeting of two black coaches in the SEC. (US Presswire)
Sumlin will be the SEC's third black head coach when A&M moves to the league officially, joining Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Vanderbilt's James Franklin. Last season he was one of 19 Division I (excluding historically black institutions) minority coaches, up from just 11 in 1996. Beyond just numbers increasing, more and more assistant coaches are getting looks at top jobs around the country and it's not limited to smaller schools. Stanford's David Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh and led the Cardinal to a BCS bowl while Franklin improbably took the Commodores to a bowl game in his first year with essentially the same squad that went 2-10 prior to his arrival.

That Sumlin moves from Conference USA to the nation's best league without much fanfare is much different from when Mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom and a positive sign that perceptions have changed just as reality has. Former Arkansas coordinator Garrick McGee took the head job at UAB to become the first black head coach at a major school in the state of Alabama, just as Sumlin became in the state of Texas. The moves are notable in their significance but also significant because they have not been noted with the attention they would have had not too long ago.

Unlike the NFL, where the Rooney Rule (instituted in 2003) has mandated teams interview minorities for openings, college hires have been left up to athletic directors and presidents' discretion. Though they are not forced to, many are giving some of the 479 black assistants in college football (as of the 2010-11 season) an interview without so much as a second thought about their race because of what they've accomplished on the field.

"I think any success I've had or can have helps the process," said Sumlin, proudly pointing out the SEC logo on his Texas A&M polo. "I think it's important that it is something that isn't being talked about. That is real progress."

Though the stark contrast between the number of black players in Division I (46%) and head coaches (less than 20%) remains a wide gulf, it is becoming less noticeable with each passing offseason. According to the NCAA, not only has there been increases in opportunities for coaches, but there has also been a broader distribution of those opportunities in other areas such as athletic administration and at the coordinator level.

In the case of Sumlin and others over the past few years, the best stat about them is that they are not talked about as one. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that is certainly something to note as a sign of progress and a true milestone in the sport.


Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: January 17, 2012 5:46 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Right on point Mr. badmrbunny.

Since: Jan 25, 2009
Posted on: January 17, 2012 2:37 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

I agree with your premise, but then "honestly" answer me this...why does a guy like charlie weis continue to get a coaching job as head coach or offensive coordinator. He only succeeded in the NFL because of Brady and Belichek, and won early at Notre Dame with the players left by Willingham. Look at the lack of talent he left for Brian Kelly at ND. Look at how poorly Florida's offense was this year under his guidance.

Jeff Smoker
Since: Oct 21, 2008
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:47 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:45 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Sumlin was hired because he is a good coach,not because of his skin color. It's ironic that the message of King was a color blind society where race wasn't an issue. Everytime we see an article about a coach featuring his race, like this article, it sets back what King was trying to teach.

Since: Oct 8, 2010
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:07 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Great for Sumlin, but the drum roll is, obstensibly, for affirmative action and racial quotas. Here's an idea: why not hire the most qualified man or woman for the job regardless of race?

Since: Aug 15, 2010
Posted on: January 17, 2012 10:50 am

Hire and fire equally

I said many years ago that racial equality would improve once a black coach would be fired for his/her results on the field/court and no one would protest because of the color of his/her skin. When the number of black coaches hit bottom (I think there were 3 at the low point) with the firings of Willingham, Shannon, and Croom, and you did not have Jackson and Sharpton leading rallies on campus or calling out the AD in the national press the tide turned. In just a few years the numbers have increased from that 3 to 19. Why? Because AD and school presidents now know that if they have to fire a coach it will be because they needed to fire a coach and there will not be a race card played against the school in the national and local media. They now know that they can hire and fire based upon results and will not have to give a black coach an extra year or two just to make sure that he/she has a fair chance. The NFL was the same way - once the stigma was lifted in regards to the firing of a black coach, more black coaches were hired. 

Since: Dec 4, 2010
Posted on: January 17, 2012 10:35 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

With all due respect, I do not think that the focus of Dr. King's priority in his quest for equality was Pro/collegiate head coaching positions.  ESPN 's agenda for years was that the % of black HC's should reflect the % of black players in any sport. (They did shut that up after NBA GM's, Dumars and Thomas, hired white HC's.)  Anyway, it's all about the self-esteem of black men.  If it weren't, there would be a more visible push to have more black female HC's in college BB.  If you agree with ESPN's formula......there would be NO men HC's at all in women's NCAA BB.  Think about that.

Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: January 17, 2012 9:43 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

As long as we use a man's color instead of his accomplishments in the hiring process, there will always be racism.

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: January 17, 2012 2:53 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

A very good hire. I wish him well and expect it. I am sorry my brothers but we are the only ones that get away with it anymore. Say what you want. It's out there on both sides and needs to go away. Where were you 9-11-01?

Since: Jan 3, 2012
Posted on: January 17, 2012 1:36 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

drkato, what white people say is, 'GET OVER IT'.  So what if you got called names, we all have.  So what if you didn't get 'charman of the board'--most of us haven't either.  Life isn't always easy and things don't always go your way--that's life, not racism.  I owe you NOTHING, and you owe me NOTHING, and that's how most whites look at it.   

Blacks are rapidly become the racists in this country.  Jesse Jackson, Mike Wilbon, Bryant Gumbel, Jalen Rose---just to name a few are outright racists, with plenty of quotes to prove it.  They get offers to be on air, only due to the backwards politically correct times we live in.   Right now blacks are allowed to be racists against whites--it's true.  There will come a time, when we no longer allow this rediculous double-standard.  


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