Race and college football

Six out of 120 Division 1A head football coaches are black. And that’s a problem for Tyrone Willingham.

Willingham bluntly criticized Division I-A football in an interview with legend Wendell Barnhouse of the Star Telegram.

“In this day and age, it’s a shame and an embarrassment,” he said. “We’ve gone too long with the numbers the way they are. We have to change what we’re doing. The good ol’ boy network is alive and well.”

Maybe the “good ol’ boy network” would be dead if Mr. Willingham could win football games. He was a failure at Notre Dame, and his record at Washington is a blistering 11-25.

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We need more Sly Croom’s and fewer Willinghams.

Croom has quietly with class and dignity turned a corner at Mississippi State. He defeated Alabama and Auburn in the same season, and won the Liberty Bowl.

If we want more black head coaches, we need winners like Croom not crybabies like Willingham.

Croom’s record in the SEC is much more interesting than anything Willingham has done. Croom was the first black football coach in the history of the SEC. And he has faced the toughest competition anywhere in college football.

Can he keep it up?

That’s the biggest question for the 2008 season; however, for advocates seeking more minorities in college coaching, Croom is the bellwether.

Unfortunately, the problem of minorities in college athletics suffered another blow on May 7 when the NCAA announced it found 668 rules violations at Alabama State University (ASU). Alabama State is a traditionally black college, and its moment in the sun this month was a disaster.

The program has appeared as a joke thanks to cheating, and mishandling the public relations aftermath. ASU put its head football coach on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network last week, and it was almost as bad as getting smacked by the NCAA.

Football coach Reggie Barlow hung up during the interview, and engaged in verbal jousting with the radio host. While Finebaum was abrasive and confrontational, the exchange showed that Barlow and ASU were not ready for prime time.

Which leads us back to Croom.

It would be impossible to find a better or more honorable man in the coaching profession. And those qualities are rarer than championships or minorities or anything else. We need more coaches with character like him—that is something that transcends race.