This past Saturday marked the end of an era in college football, as Texas coach Mack Brown resigned after winning 158 games, two Big 12 titles and one national championship during his 16 years with the Longhorns. It is without question that the head coaching position at the University of Texas is one of the nation’s premier jobs in all of sports. With what seems to be an unlimited supply of resources, the incoming coach will most likely get a remarkable pay raise and access to pristine facilities, along with all the prestige and plentiful options from one of the country’s hottest recruiting beds. With a job this tailor-made and ripe for winning, there has to be a short list of candidates that are immediately in contention for such an honor, right?
According to most experts, there are approximately ten names that continue to surface in discussions. However in reading such lists, there is one factor that jumps out at me more than any other. Of the “consensus” ten, four are African-American. Yes, the same four men who at the beginning of the 2013 season all led programs ranked in the top 25 and represented a minority group who totals only 10% of all college football coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). It makes a very powerful statement, and sheds a bright light on the on-going discussion about how more African-Americans are needed in leadership roles in college athletics.
It goes without saying that black coaches have seen progress over the years as 2012 boasted the highest amount to hold head coaching position with 15, although that number slid back to 12 in 2013. So this begs the question, “Is it about the quantity or quality?” It’s about both. More African-American coaches deserve an opportunity to be more than coordinators and prove their leadership qualities. It also calls for them to not only take on the responsibility of “mid-level” college programs, but to also guide a flagship school, one that say, has its own TV rights, such as Texas.
On the short list of candidates, David Shaw (Stanford), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), James Franklin (Vanderbilt), and Charlie Strong (Louisville) all possess the chemical makeup of what constitutes a leading candidate for the position.
David Shaw – The Stanford coach has built quite an impressive resume both on and off the field. His style is infectious and is proven as he leads a program that competes at the highest level which happens to be less-equipped with the advantages of most schools who do not have the rigorous academic standards. No. 5 Stanford is the only program to make a BCS bowl the last four years. The twice-reigning Pac-12 champions, are also the only team to win at least 11 games in each of those years.
Charlie Strong – Another candidate with a “Strong” resume who actually has big school experience. As defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong helped to bring two national titles to Gainesville. In each of his two seasons at the University of Louisville he has posted 11 wins, including a Sugar Bowl victory over his former Gators.
James Franklin – Vanderbilt is 15-4 in its last 19 games. Only Alabama has a better record in the SEC during that time. In addition, Franklin has secured a top 20 recruiting class at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt! His charismatic personality was made for television, a huge bonus for Texas and its vast recruiting base. After engineering an immediate turnaround for the Commodores, it is not a stretch to think that he would be capable of doing even more for the Longhorns.
Kevin Sumlin – Sumlin's selection would seem a bit of a reach considering his recent signing of a new six-year, $30 million deal with Texas A&M. However, even with a buyout as high as $5 million, that would be considered chump change in Austin. And although it seems highly unlikely that this move would take place, money is always a major player. Sumlin is 19-6 as A&M’s head coach, including an 11-win campaign in 2012, the program’s debut season in the SEC. Prior to College Station, Sumlin led Houston to a school-record 12 wins and its highest finish in the BCS rankings in 2011.
Some would argue that in 2002, the hiring of Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame broke the perception that African-American coaches could not lead such a marquee program. It was believed that this particular hire would open the doors for a lot of minority candidates. With Willingham’s instant success beginning his first season by going 8-0, and becoming the only first-year coach in Notre Dame history to win 10 games, the field seemed wide open. Unfortunately the story did not end well as the following two seasons would bring a combined 11-12 record, leading to his early dismissal.
Despite the perceived level of disappointment, it is my opinion that the Willingham hire did indeed open the eyes and minds of institutions around the country and afforded more black coaches the opportunity to land head jobs. It is now becoming even more clear, the capabilities and skill of these men are taking center stage. Will Texas make the choice to hire one of these worthy candidates?
According to Vegas odds it is overwhelming who the favorites are. Here are the top five choices:
- David Shaw +300
- Charlie Strong +400
- Gus Malzahn +400
- James Franklin +600
- Art Briles +600