Randy Shannon Named Head Coach of The U.



            If you were to take a trip across the landscape of college athletics, you would find many sports dominated by people of color.  From basketball and football to track, many African Americans have become standout athletes in their respective sports.  While their success on the collegiate level has led to success in the lucrative professional ranks that success has not carried over to the sidelines or the Athletic Director’s office.

            Recent statistics show that 43 percent of college football players are Black, but only five African Americans held head coaching positions in Division 1-A college football in 2006.  The Black college coaching fraternity recently “inducted” a new a member, when longtime defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, 40, replaced Larry Coker as head coach of the University of Miami.

            “Randy has the discipline and heart of a champion.  He has been preparing himself for a head coaching position his whole life and I am very happy that the opportunity came at the University of Miami, his alma mater.  We are extremely lucky to have him,” said University of Miami president Donna E. Shalala.

            Ironically, despite his overwhelming qualifications, “luck” might be the correct term to describe ascension to head coach of one of America’s most storied football powerhouses.  Of the six African American head coaches in major college football, Shannon takes over the program with the most history and most success. 

            The five other colleges that have African American coaches are Mississippi State (Sylvester Croom), UCLA (Karl Dorrell), University of Buffalo (Turner Gill), Kansas State (Ron Prince), and Washington (Tyrone Willingham).  The aforementioned Croom made history when he became the first African American head coach in the Southeastern Conference.

            Why is it so difficult for African Americans to receive head coaching positions in college football?  Statistics show that there are only 11 minority head coaches among the 200 NCAA Division 1-A and Division 1-AA schools, excluding Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

            In addition, among the 414 coaching vacancies in Division 1-A since 1982, only 21 have been filled by African Americans.

            Based on data from the Black Coaches Association, “it appears that decision makers consider color, gender, class, family connection and other characteristics when majority or minority (candidates) are hired.  The true meaning of social network theory is the way in which people are connected through various social familiarities, ranging from casual acquaintances to close familial bonds—as with alumni pressure, the factor(s) of how comfortable decision makers are with the head coach is the most significant.”

            Specifically, African Americans face a more difficult challenge becoming head coaches in college athletics because of outside pressure from alumni and boosters who are uncomfortable giving that much power to a person of color.  Minority groups face discrimination in all facets of life throughout this country, but the discrimination seems much greater when it pertains to college campuses.

            Many universities, especially those in the South, have a long history of racial and cultural bias that still exists in some forms in 2007.  Most colleges in the South still practiced segregation 40 years ago, and the architects of that discrimination are still active on many college campuses 40 years later.  Unfortunately, many of them still hold on to those false beliefs of racial superiority/inferiority, and simply cannot see a minority running a successful college program.

            Although many minorities are qualified for these prestigious positions, many are bypassed because college administrators are “more comfortable” with a person that looks like them.  Moreover, when minority coaches finally get an opportunity to shine on the biggest stage, it is usually at an institution with very little chance to succeed at the highest level of college football.

            However, Randy Shannon has an opportunity to change the entire perception of the Black coach by taking over a powerhouse program.  As defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes, his defense has consistently led the nation in pass defense and set many school records, while helping the University of Miami win the 2001 national championship.

            It seems as if the sky is the limit for Shannon and the Hurricanes, and his success should open doors for minority coaches across the country to realize their dream of a coaching at the highest level of collegiate sports.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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