Tag:AFCA Coaches Convention
Posted on: January 16, 2012 2:06 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 2:18 pm
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Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality


Posted by Bryan Fischer

When milestones are being broken and they lack notoriety, does that make them less of a milestone?

It's an intriguing question to ask on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with regards to the hiring of African-American head coaches in college football.

In the case of new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, perhaps it is best to see the arrival of yet another black coach - to the SEC no less - not as a milestone in itself but rather as a significant sign of progress with how far the sport has come. King's famous "I have a dream" speech 49 years ago called for racial equality along with an end to discrimination and, when looking at this hire, that seems to be truer now than it was just three or four years ago.

"I think it's significant progress," Sumlin said last week at the AFCA Coaches Convention about the lack of race being brought up with regards to his hire. "I can remember four or five years ago when I was hired at Houston, 'The first... the first... the first...' I said at the press conference that my hope five, six, seven years from now that it wouldn't even be a topic of discussion."

As Birmingham News columnist Jon Solomon notes, The Associated Press didn't mention Sumlin becoming the first black head football coach at Texas A&M until the 11th paragraph. While it's certainly possible Sumlin's hire might have brought up the discussion behind closed doors in College Station, there was no dwelling on his skin color when making the hire in public. Race was mentioned in passing because it wasn't a positive or negative in filling the job because Sumlin was judged on his merits as a head coach.

"They only talk about coaches two ways, moving on and getting hired or moving out and getting fired," he said with a chuckle. "When it gets to those deals now, race isn't part of the discussion."

Kentucky head coach Joke Phillips (above) played Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin in 2011 in the first ever meeting of two black coaches in the SEC. (US Presswire)
Sumlin will be the SEC's third black head coach when A&M moves to the league officially, joining Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Vanderbilt's James Franklin. Last season he was one of 19 Division I (excluding historically black institutions) minority coaches, up from just 11 in 1996. Beyond just numbers increasing, more and more assistant coaches are getting looks at top jobs around the country and it's not limited to smaller schools. Stanford's David Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh and led the Cardinal to a BCS bowl while Franklin improbably took the Commodores to a bowl game in his first year with essentially the same squad that went 2-10 prior to his arrival.

That Sumlin moves from Conference USA to the nation's best league without much fanfare is much different from when Mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom and a positive sign that perceptions have changed just as reality has. Former Arkansas coordinator Garrick McGee took the head job at UAB to become the first black head coach at a major school in the state of Alabama, just as Sumlin became in the state of Texas. The moves are notable in their significance but also significant because they have not been noted with the attention they would have had not too long ago.

Unlike the NFL, where the Rooney Rule (instituted in 2003) has mandated teams interview minorities for openings, college hires have been left up to athletic directors and presidents' discretion. Though they are not forced to, many are giving some of the 479 black assistants in college football (as of the 2010-11 season) an interview without so much as a second thought about their race because of what they've accomplished on the field.

"I think any success I've had or can have helps the process," said Sumlin, proudly pointing out the SEC logo on his Texas A&M polo. "I think it's important that it is something that isn't being talked about. That is real progress."

Though the stark contrast between the number of black players in Division I (46%) and head coaches (less than 20%) remains a wide gulf, it is becoming less noticeable with each passing offseason. According to the NCAA, not only has there been increases in opportunities for coaches, but there has also been a broader distribution of those opportunities in other areas such as athletic administration and at the coordinator level.

In the case of Sumlin and others over the past few years, the best stat about them is that they are not talked about as one. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that is certainly something to note as a sign of progress and a true milestone in the sport.
 

Posted on: January 13, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 5:17 pm
 

NCAA looking to cut football scholarships

Posted by Bryan Fischer

INDIANAPOLIS -- As part of sweeping changes stemming from a Presidential retreat in August, an NCAA working group will recommend to the organization's Board of Directors that FBS-level football scholarships be cut from 85 to 80 starting in 2014.

The proposal was among the most controversal to be discussed at a Division I session Friday morning at the annual NCAA convention, with several school leaders quite outspoken about the issue.

"What you see with these proposals is an effort to restrain spending at the expense of student-athletes," Harvey Perlman, chancellor of Nebraska, said. "The working group says if you reduce scholarships and other expenses you can reallocate it to other things for student-athletes. But the problem is, I don't know of an athletic department that won't spend every penny it has.

"I just think this is bad publicity and I think it's bad policy."

Georgia president Dr. Michael Adams chaired the group responsible and was put in the precarious position of leading the charge of several unpopular measures.

"Of all the things I've done the last 30 years at the NCAA, this is the most unpopular. I have the scars to show for it," Adams said. "There's a notion that we are a runaway train in Division I with less regard for student-athletes than the people who are making the exorbitant salaries. We need to put a stake down somewhere."

A good portion of the administrators speaking at a Q&A session about the new proposals - at large schools and small - sided with Perlman and cited issues with taking away opportunities not only to play football but earn a degree.

"It's pretty hard to see it any other way," said Perlman. "There's public concern about universities generating all these resources and not giving it to student-athletes. So the response is we're going to cut scholarships and other kinds of things? It doesn't make sense to me."

Adams is an interesting choice to lead the charge to cut spending at schools across the country. The Bulldogs have one of the healthiest athletics departments in the country and the football team was the second-most profitable in the country behind Texas last year. He understands that while others disagree with some of the details, there is a reason why the working group has been tasked to do what it has been working on.

"I think we've been running headlong into a cliff and now is a time to start pushing things back a little," he said. "I'm first of all an academic. I'm a big sports fan but I want the academic process to drive things and not the athletic process."

Coaches have been outspoken about the cuts as well. It was discussed at the AFCA Coaches Convention prior to the NCAA meetings and it's opposed in greater numbers among their ranks than those that headed to Indianapolis.

"The divide between presidents and AD's on one side and coaches is a pretty wide gulf," Adams said. "I don't want to fight with anybody. But on some of these issues I think there needs to be reasonable compromise to protect the academic process and, secondly, deal with the economic realities of the world we're now living in. My faculty hasn't had a raise in three years and a lot of them think what they see in athletics has a lot of excess in it."

The scholarship proposal also calls for a cut in the number of FCS scholarships by three - from 63 to 60 - and will be sent to the Board of Directors on Saturday to be voted on.

 
 
 
 
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