New York Times: Vols' Hiring of Kiffin Exemplifies College Football's Race Barrier


Can you spot the difference between these two coaches? Sunday's New York Times featured a piece investigating the dearth of black college football coaches. In a sport where 50 percent of the players are black, 3.4 percent of the coaches are black. Among the two recent decisions cited as prime examples of the problem--the Vols' hiring of Lane Kiffin:
"The hiring problem was underlined when two white coaches who had failed spectacularly in their previous jobs--Lane Kiffin with the N.F.L.'s Raiders and Gene Chizik at Iowa State--landed plum positions. Kiffin went to Tennessee, Chizik to Auburn. Meanwhile, the country's hottest young African-American coach, Turner Gill of Buffalo, was passed over. Gill took one of the worst programs in college football and turned it into a Mid-American Conference champion in three seasons. But he was overlooked for the marquee openings."
"Failed spectacularly." Come on, Times, don't mince words--say what you mean. Of course, the writer is referring to Kiffin's recent tenure with the Raiders, where he went 5-and-15 over a season-and-a-quarter. Among the contributing factors discussed: Unlike in the NFL, prospective college coaches have to run the gauntlet of university administrators, athletic directors and boosters, who all have sway. As former Temple basketball coach John Chaney explained it, "It's all related to the fact that we want to make sure that we keep it safe and stay safe. And they do that by recruiting people that look like them and think the same way they think." That's a rather magnanimous way of putting it. Interestingly, before the Kiffin hiring, much of the chatter on the Vol Nation forums dismissed the 46-year-old Gill because, among other things, he was too young and inexperienced. "Too young yet. Has no idea what it's like to play the big boys," read one post. "Simply not ready to be handed the reigns [sic] of an elite big time program. He will be one day, but today is not the day," read another. It would be interesting to know what those Vols fans are thinking now, with the 33-year-old Kiffin at the helm.

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