Terry Bowden – Civil Rights Activist?

Does anyone other than Terry Bowden really believe that the reason that there are not more black head coaches is because university presidents are giving in to outspoken alumni and donors who don’t want black coaches?

If he said this was a problem in the SEC or in the Southeast in general, then I might say that there are a few programs with old, powerful white donors where that argument might not be dismissed out of hand. But what about the other 100 or so schools in Division IA football?

To most people, college campuses are considered to be the epitome of tolerance and open-mindedness. Are racist administrations and alumni in Berkley and Boston really preventing black head coaches from being hired at Cal and BC? If Mississippi State can hire a black head coach can’t anyone?

This is not to say that racism isn’t a problem in this country or in college football, but it’s hardly the fault of weak administrators and outspoken, racist alumni. Terry Bowden’s view appear to be greatly biased by his and his family’s experience growing up and coaching in the Deep South, especially in the state of Alabama.

Terry was a good coach, who had the misfortune of working at a program (Auburn) with the most powerful, intrusive, egomaniac booster in college athletics (Bobby Lowder). Now it appears Terry wants to extrapolate that bad experience to apply to college football in general. Further, given his family ties to Alabama, I expect Terry was very conscious of the coaching circus that went on at Bama over the last several years. That is not to say racism was involved (or not) at Bama, but based on this article, it appears that Terry thinks so.

The conclusion Terry reaches by the one relevant set of statistics he quotes in his article is fatally flawed. According to Terry, “You don’t have to be too smart to know how stupid this looks. Let me lay it out for you: Fifty percent black athletes leads to 25 percent black assistant coaches leads to 3 percent black head coaches.”

Well, Terry, let me lay it out for you. Those statistics don’t mean anything unless you factor in time. How old is the average college football head coach? 40? 50? I suspect it’s older, but I think it’s safe to say it’s at least 40. So, twenty years ago, when Coach Average was graduating college, how many black players were embarking on coaching careers? Going a little further back, how many black grad assistants were there when Joe Pa and Bobby graduated from college? Considering Alabama universities weren’t desegregated yet, I’d say there weren’t many.

The point is that head coaching candidates have to come from somewhere, and that pool of talent has to be developed over time. Looking around the SEC, six of the twelve head coaches had previous IA head coaching experience (Aub, Ark, LSU, UF, USC, and UK). Even Vandy, which no longer has an athletic department, hired a head coach from another division. Of the other five SEC schools, two coaches were coordinators at top 10 programs, two were NFL coordinators, and only one was never a coordinator or head coach.

Unlike Terry, I’m not a full-time analyst, and I don’t have the time or resources to research all the stats. However, I’d guess that there is a high correlation between being a head coach and having experience as a coordinator, and these coordinators have to come from somewhere too. If administrators and boosters are truly to blame, there must be a large pool of untapped experienced black coordinators. That, of course, is hardly the case. The most recent stat I could find says that only twelve out of a possible 234 positions (117 IA programs x 2) are filled by black coaches, ~5%. That’s only marginally better than at the head coaching level. The one thing Terry got right is that more black players do need to be encouraged to enter coaching in order to increase the number of head coaches in the future. However, to really effect change, these assistants will need to eventually advance to positions as offensive and defensive coordinators.

“In the last dozen years, my family alone has made more than $30 million as Division I-A head football coaches.” Since you bring it up Terry, of the 60 or so years that you and your family family have worked as head coaches, how many of those 120 coordinator jobs were filled by minorities? I hope it’s better than 5%.

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3 Responses to Terry Bowden – Civil Rights Activist?

  1. Washington Wolf 10/04/2005 at 9:44 AM #

    Great post!

  2. Slader4881 10/04/2005 at 9:53 PM #

    Great post, I think this is not the only reason there are not more black coaches in the NCAA. But I can promise you that some where maybe not at a very visable school there are alumni that would flip out at the possibilty of a black coach. In my eyes this is a double edged sword. There is a lack of black coaches with years of experiance, but at the same time all over the country (not just the southeast) there are alumni that are scared of a black coach. This fear is driven by the facts that there has never really been a successful D-1 black coach, there is a lack of qualified (in some eyes) canidates, and some people STILL do not want a black coach no matter what. I’m not agreeing with Bowden but this issue does exist, just maybe on a smaller scale.

  3. Greg 10/06/2005 at 12:14 AM #

    If alumni do believe that they do not want a black coach because there has never been a succesful one, then this doesnt say much for that school’s educational program.

    Black people are no different than any other people. To think that someone needs to prove they can do it (coach) is ludicrous.

    To these people I give:

    Jackie Robinson…black players cant play baseball in the white league
    Pedro Martinez, Bob Gibson, etc…black baseball players cant be pitchers
    McNabb, Culpepper, Vick…black football players cant be qb’s
    Arthur Ashe….black men cant be championship tennis players
    Williams sisters….same
    Tiger Woods….black man cant be the best golfer….ever….

    I guess the question I have to ask is why does someone have to prove something before other people will believe it?

    The problem in coaching is that there are so many re-treads who keep getting head jobs. I am talking about guys who have proven they can fail multiple times who continue to get jobs while younger minority coaches have been overlooked. The LA Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox have put their team in the hands of GMs who were still bottle feeding when Bob Gibson pitched his last game. But I guess a minority has to prove that they can do it….

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