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: Jan 3, 2012
Posted on: January 17, 2012 1:18 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

What about the racism AGAINST whites in the NBA?  Where's the equality for the whites in the NBA?  That's like 75% black, yet nothing on that...hmmm..
Politically correct articles like this, make me want to track this writer and kick him in the nuts for being such a politically correct wuss. 

Blacks are 10% of the population.  They are around 10% of the coaches in college---sounds about right to me. 

Since: Oct 8, 2006
Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:14 am

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

I'm not going to get into a race debate here...society has move forward to far to even have it as a topic...but it DOES remain a topic, duely for affirmative action committees and things like the headline on this stupid story "moving closer to equality." I was never aware that there was a set marker that we as a society needed to it in a bylaw somewhere the appropriate number of different races for different jobs?  That's ridiculous...cause if that's the case we nned to fire 4 more whites. two blacks in order to make room for the italians, mexicans, irish, russians, brazilians, etc....  it's stupid. Organizations shouldn't be told who they have to meet to hire someone to run their private business. And is a business...owned by an individual and a some shareholders (outside of GreenBay). 

Hire who you think can make you win and please stop making everything a race issue....for christ!? 

Hook Em, Go Cowboys, Rangers , Stars  and MAN U!

Since: Jan 16, 2012
Posted on: January 16, 2012 10:16 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Great hire. I hope the fans and program are patient with him. Not only does he have to come in and make changes, but he has to compete in the SEC. Just a bit different than the Big 12....

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: January 16, 2012 10:05 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Sumlin did NOT get hired because he is black, he got hired because he has produced winning teams, period.  When a white coach gets fired because he hasn't produced winners, no one notices, but somehow if that happens to a black head coach (think Ty Willingham at UW and ND, or Bob Simmons at OK State or Turner Gill at KU), then it's because of their race?  In CFB, the only criteria for getting hired and/or keeping your job is WINNING!

Since: Dec 1, 2006
Posted on: January 16, 2012 9:57 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Yes let's talk about racism. The NFL has only one full time white halfback, not one white cornerback, less than 5% safeties and wide receivers. Yes, there is plenty of racism in sports. Why does the American collegiate basketball system produce less than 5% white basketball players for the NBA, yet Europe and South America produces plenty of white NBA players. A response might be that black players work harder and are better prepared to play sports. Okay, then white coaches work harder and are better prepared to coach sports. The Rooney Rule is pure racism. Teams are "mandated to interview minority (translated black) coaches for openings. That is not only racist, it is Socialist. So as the teams get blacker, the coaches get blacker. Let's translate that into anything that was white and was "mandated" to get whiter. Affirmative action is pure institutional racism as are a number of scholarships set aside for "inner city kids." Would that hacks like you cared more about the poor, white kids of Appalachia who are traped in a cycle of poverty. How about the Black Coaches Association that strong arms insitutions to hire black coaches and then berates them when they are fired because the coach doesn't produce. Would anyone put up with a White Coaches Association? Time doesn't permit more on this subject except to say black institution racism needs to be rooted out in America.

Since: Jan 10, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2012 9:39 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Come on Zacky, you have to at least be open to the notion that the Good Ole Boy Network is still trying to keep itself in place, and that they would prefer to keep the world as white as snow. To think otherwise is naive. I would love it if we didn't *have* to balance the playing field, but if you don't, no equality will ever come about.

First of all, yes, it would be naive to think everything is as it should be yet with regards to race. Will it ever be perfect, and will we ever become raceLESS?  No, but what do you or anyone else expect to make the field equal? Should we keep whites from seeking the job?  Are we certain there is a mass of qualified black applicants that actually want to be head coaches equal to the mass of qualified white applicants? I'm all for equal opportunity, but the constant babbling about not enough of a certain race representing a certain profession seems to me like an endless charade. Would it make everyone happy to have 80% of NBA teams coached by blacks since 80% who play are black?  What's the happy place for race bean counters?

Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: January 16, 2012 7:50 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: May 9, 2009
Posted on: January 16, 2012 7:41 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality nailed it. When Notre Dame hired Tyrone Willingham they were heralded as a school who took THE step that other schools refused to do and when he was fired it was because he was black. Really? Can't have it both ways. While I believe some schools do still have the all white mentality by the same token other schools know if they hire a black coach and he fails and they fire him it is because they are rascist. Why cant it not be because they failed? Dont even try to suggest that doesnt happen because you know it does. They play the race card to illicit sympathy for their cause or to cover up their failures and that isnt right either. Before Tyrone Willingham was fired he had already accepted a job with Washington. Notre Dame hired Charlie Weis, a white ex OC, and all hell broke less and when he failed he was fired as well. Because he received an extension, which was a big mistake by Father Jenkins, Notre Dame was branded as rascist so it is understandable why some schools might be a bit skiddish about the fallout. Sylvester Croom did not do well at Miss State but not until he was terminated did players or fans speak out. Why? They were afraid to for the very reasons I just stated so while you are spouting off about the good ole boy network keep in mind on the other side is the proverbial race card.

Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: January 16, 2012 7:23 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

I did not think you wanted to get into this, but I thought I would test you anyway.  Good call to get off now.  Same here.   Good night. 

Since: Mar 30, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2012 7:04 pm

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

This topic is both a powder keg and a slippery slope all rolled into one, so I think I will get off now. Do a little research on US infrastructure, and the minority inhabitant percentages of all the different infrastructure levels. The playing field is not level for all the players in the game.

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