Widgets Magazine

Sawhney: Coaching diversity a must

As Stanford’s football program continues its transition into the David Shaw era, an interesting factoid came to my attention yesterday. Stanford is now the only BCS-conference school to have a black head coach in both football and men’s basketball, the two most prominent sports in collegiate athletics. To be completely honest, I find it surprising that this fact hasn’t been more widely publicized, as it points toward Stanford’s progressive outlook and the hurdles that minorities continue to face in the coaching ranks.

Before I continue, let me clarify my own viewpoint on the issue of minority head coaches in college sports, including at Stanford. I know that there are plenty of qualified minority coaches out there, but I would never advocate for any sort of “quota” in terms of how many programs must have minority coaches at the helm. If a program is looking for a new coach, it can and should hire whoever gives it the best chance to win, regardless of ethnicity.

However, the main issue with minority candidates is one of access–head-coaching vacancies are often filled through coaching networks, which can be hard for minorities to break into. After all, head-coaching openings aren’t exactly listed on CareerBuilder.com–athletic directors have significant discretion in conducting a search and choosing who they would like to lead the program.

With this reality in mind, Stanford should become a leader in helping minority coaches around the NCAA gain access to coaching and administrative positions. Stanford’s sterling reputation in the athletic community would lend weight and credibility to any push for change at the conference and national level.

The lack of minorities in the FBS head-coaching ranks has been well-documented, and out of the 120 FBS schools, fewer than 15 currently have black head coaches.

Stanford also has a track record of hiring minority coaches with great success–our last Rose Bowl appearance came with Tyrone Willingham leading the program, and he was subsequently hired away by storied Notre Dame.

On the basketball front, Stanford has seen steady improvement under head coach Johnny Dawkins. The team is off to a strong start this season, and Dawkins has proven to be a top-notch recruiter–this year’s freshman class has already had a significant impact on the team.

But beyond simply advocating for increased access, how can Stanford go about securing expanded opportunities for minority coaches?

One model is the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which mandates that teams with head coach and GM vacancies interview at least one minority candidate before making any contract offers. I’ve had my issues with the rule in the past since it encourages “token” interviews of minority candidates who have no real chance of getting the job. Nevertheless, it is better than nothing and would be a positive step toward ensuring a fair opportunity for all qualified coaches.

While it’s unlikely that anything of this sort could get accomplished at the NCAA level (heck, I don’t even know if the NCAA has that kind of power), a good start would be to see if the member schools of the Pac-12 could voluntarily agree to submit themselves to such a policy. After all, at the end of the day, this type of requirement would not interfere in any way with the athletic director’s ability to choose whichever candidate he felt was best for the job.

Another possibility is for Shaw to become college football’s version of Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts head coach who was the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. Dungy is extremely well-respected around the NFL, and his success and well-documented community involvement paved the way for other black coaches to make their mark in the pros. There is no comparable figure in college football, and Shaw, who is young and charismatic, could follow in that mold.

Of course, that is contingent on Stanford football maintaining its current position as a national power, and keeping that status is Shaw’s first priority. Indeed, success is probably the best thing that anyone can do to promote minority coaches, as a highly visible example of success will persuade other athletic directors and programs to follow in Stanford’s footsteps.

Just last week, Kabir devoted an entire column to why the Rooney Rule needs to be reevaluated. Ask him which side he’s really on at ksawhney “at” stanford.edu.

About Kabir Sawhney

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.
  • Alvin

    When it comes to networking, skin color doesn’t matter. You have to be proactive and keep trying. Just network, damnit, and don’t use race as an excuse not to.

  • Alvin

    When it comes to networking, skin color doesn’t matter. The goal is not to be close friends with everyone, rather it is to make contacts. You have to be proactive and keep trying. Just network, damnit, and don’t use race as an excuse not to.

  • Iceman

    Stanford has already been a leader in minority coaching. Bill Walsh had coaching workshops for minority while he was HC here, paving the way for many new NFL assistants and eventual HCs.

  • john

    Is it still necessary to divide every person into categories by skin color?

  • Alum ’92

    I’m actually sorry to see you write this. Coach Shaw was the right man, at the right time, the best candidate PERIOD for the Stanford Cardinal. His skin color is irrelevant to the conversation. THAT is progress.