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.
 

Comments

Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: January 16, 2012 6:54 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Take a stroll through Baltimore if you ever want to see what giant disadvantage I am talking about.
I am not going to Baltimore to see what you are talking about.  You said "giant disadvantage" and I was wondering what you meant.  Your response does nothing to elaborate on what you were trying to say. 



Since: Mar 30, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2012 6:38 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Take a stroll through Baltimore if you ever want to see what giant disadvantage I am talking about.



Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: January 16, 2012 6:31 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

@drkato--I did not call you a racist by any means, but I did say that I could take the comment as such.  Making what someone may claim to be a racist statement does not make that person a racist.  Most often, they are race baiters, but I do not know you well enough to say that about you.  By the way, I do not think most racists are morally corrupt, just ignorant.  There is a huge difference as the person that is morally corrupt cannot be changed, whereas the ignorant can. 

What giant disadvantage are you referring to?  I could take a guess, but I would rather you tell me. 



Since: Mar 30, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2012 6:12 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

LSU, save it dude. I am not saying there isn't progress. I am simply saying that there are still a lot of people in this world that have not yet outlived their usefulness nor their beliefs. These people are unjust, and morally corrupt, which is exactly what their environments taught them to be. Is it really a crime to counter their evil ways with something constructive? Something that enforces what more Americans really wants?

Seems to me people (white people usually), just want to say, "OK, let's wipe the slate clean, race is not an issue anymore. Forget the giant disadvantage that is severely affecting minority segments of our society, where all equal now!" Forgive me if I don't think this will work. You want to miscontrue my point and label me a racist in return, good for you, go for it. All this country needs is more ignorance.



Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: January 16, 2012 5:35 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Sorry, but I see your comments as racist as those you are talking about.  "Blacks cannot compete unless some of us non- good ole boys look after them".  Is that really what you are saying?  You are white, but not racist like a lot of white guys; nice.  One cannot compare the number of players in a sport with the number of head coaches in a sport and then shout racism.  You need to look at the available pool of candidates, and there are just not near as many black assistant coaches as there are white ones.  No one goes from being a player to being a HC.  There are step along the way, and once blacks really started to get into coaching at the lower levels, the number of HC's started to increase.  That is why this takes time, not the good ole boy network keeping them down.  I am not saying racism does not exist, but the bottom line is that most owners are still looking to win, not protect their race. 



Since: Dec 27, 2007
Posted on: January 16, 2012 5:28 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.
Some might say to think like you do here is cynical and jaded.

This is 2012. Look on the field. These schools don't see color or even character as much as  they see winning and the money that brings. You don't think they'd hire a Tony Dungy, Mike Tomlin or Lovey Smith? Puhleeze.

Tony Dungy could have had 15 jobs this year if he wanted them. Why? He's proven himself a GREAT coach. You think is anyone is calling Ty Willingham or Sylvester Croom? It's not because of color, but their failures.

It's really sad that institutions and people are branded because of what happened 20-30 years ago. So much as changed. Look who is President. The US has had 2 Secretary's of State who were black. The GOP had a black man as it's head for years. The head of the DOJ is black. There is a black SC judge. It also cuts across party and ideology.

The overwhelming majority of people could care less about what color someone's skin is. That's lesson we all learned and IMHO have taken to heart from MLK. Judge someone not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.

Sumlin got the job because Houston has had a nice run under him. Texas A &M went after a hot young coach. My guess is race played little part in it. The guy's record and offensive mind got him the job.



Since: Dec 27, 2007
Posted on: January 16, 2012 5:15 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

 But it doesn't take a math major to see that the numbers are still an utter disgrace.  

While far from perfect,progress is made when black coaches are fired because they've failed like white coaches and no one complains.
Also when balck coaches liek their counterparts are able to leave one job for a better job because of their performance.

Those numbers will increase when the years younger black coaches have put in start to yield to promotions. Once you've made it to OC or DC, you then start to get offers. Charlie Strong is a perfect example of that.

Personally, Martin Luther King was more concerned about unity, dignity and discipline, then sports. In fact, he was very much a stoic in his thinking. He'd be a lot prouder of progress African-American made in politics(Obama-Cain-Rice-Powell) and academia(West-Gates). Those are areas of power and influence.



Since: Mar 30, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2012 4:48 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. It is still years down the road where we can even hope that the color of one's skin will be less and less of an issue. I am a white boy, but at the same time, I see facts as they are, not as I wish them to be.



Since: Oct 6, 2006
Posted on: January 16, 2012 4:18 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Sumlin sold out on U of H to take more money for A&M. Who's to say he won't do the same again?

Who cares if he's black? The fact that race is even discussed is sad. The Rooney Rule is a joke. It PROPOGATES racism instead of hiring a coach, regardless of their skin color, on their skill set, which is what should be the determining factor.





Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: January 16, 2012 3:46 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality

Progress has been made, but the field is still shamefully slanted against coaches of African-American descent.  There are seven in the NFL right now, and eleven that I know of in the FBS.  
 
The time-honored way to move up in the ranks is to start at a place in a lesser conference like the MAC or WAC and move up from there.  Unfortunately, black coaches usually only get hired in schools who are at rock bottom and just had their coaches fired, while white coaches often get their first jobs after successful coaches moved on, leaving a very nice program behind.   
 
Has their been progress?  Yes.  But it doesn't take a math major to see that the numbers are still an utter disgrace.   

If MLK was still alive, this would be in his "sweet spot."  There has been progress, but there is still a lot of work to do. 


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