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Behind the Blue Disk: Minority head football coaches.
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Publish date: Aug 31, 2010

A numbers game for minority football head coaches

By Kristen Leigh Porter

The September 4 football game featuring African-American head coaches Charlie Strong (Louisville) and Joker Phillips (Kentucky) spotlights an increase in the number of minority head coaches on the sidelines this season.

The number of minority coaches in Division I at the Football Bowl Subdivision level compared to this time last year increased from eight to 15, although there are 119 coaches in that subdivision.

In June 2008, there were only three head football coaches of color at the FBS level. Overall, there are 33 minority head football coaches across all divisions, excluding Historically Black Colleges and Universities. That number includes 29 African-Americans.

The NCAA sponsors programming to assist ethnic minority football coaches with career advancement. Programs available include the Future Coaches Academy for coaching hopefuls, the Coaches Academy for coaches with at least three to eight years of experience, the Expert Coaches Forum for coaches with at least eight years of experience and the Champions Forum for selected coaches ready to become head coaches.

Four individuals who participated in NCAA programming and are at various stages in their careers shared their thoughts on moving up the ladder.

Division III

Aaron Kelton, Williams College

Served as defensive coordinator at Columbia before moving into the head coaching ranks in May.

Question: There have been 20 minority head coaches hired in the last two years, more than any other time in history. Why do you think that is?

Answer: I believe the large number of hires have occurred because the BCA (Black Coaches and Administrators) and the NCAA are making an effort to promote minority coaches and holding people accountable in the hiring process. I also believe that many colleges and universities know

there are talented coached everywhere and aren’t afraid to step out of the box.  Student populations and school dynamics are changing daily, and this is finally reflected in the hiring practices of athletics. Many administrators are making the decisions and taking the hiring process out of the hands of the alumni and boosters. Coaches are attending the Academies and preparing for the opportunity of becoming a head coach so when they get the chance they can capitalize on it and get the job.

Q: What would it mean for a minority football coach to win a national championship at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level?

A: I believe it would be great for a minority coach to win the national championship at a Bowl Championship Series school. Mike London winning the (Football Championship Subdivision) national championship at the University of Richmond did a lot for all minority coaches. It helped to show the school leaders and administrations that there are many very good minority coaches out here who can lead their programs and that we want to lead programs. Coaches have to win and win often…that is our business and that is important.

Division II

Paul Winters, Wayne State (Michigan)

Hired in December 2003 after nine seasons on the Akron staff.

Q: What are some of the struggles that minority coaches face trying to reach the head coaching ranks?

A: Minorities at the coaching level have the same problems that minorities at the athletics director levels face. Those in position to make the hires are looking to someone similar to themselves. You have confidence in yourself, so you naturally look to someone similar to yourself.  So the difficulty is to get the exposure in front of the people who do the hiring. 

Division I Football Championship Subdivision

Nigel Burton, Portland State

Hired as Portland State head coach in December 2009; previously was Nevada’s defensive coordinator.

Q: What are your thoughts on the match-up between African-American coaches Charlie Strong (Louisville) and Joker Phillips (Kentucky)?

A: I’m looking forward to the day that it’s not a story. It’s not a story anymore for the NBA or for NCAA basketball teams.

Q: You participated in the NCAA Coaches Academy programming on your way to becoming a head coach. How did the experience help you get to where you are today?

A:  It rejuvenated me in terms of what my goals were when I started coaching. Just being around the people who were at the Academies encouraged me to re-commit myself. We fed off each other’s energy. From an information perspective, it prepared me for doing the budgets, what the ADs ask in interviews, and pitfalls for first-year coaches, among other issues. It prepared me so much more.




Division I Football Bowl Subdivision

Kevin Sumlin, Houston

Took over the Houston program in December 2007 after serving as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator in the Big 12.

Q: What are some of the struggles that minority coaches face trying to reach the head coaching ranks?

A: Young coaches need to get exposure to the athletics directors, the guys making the decisions, which is what is great about the program. Athletics directors are going to hire people they are comfortable with and when they have a previous relationship, there is a better chance of making that hire.

Q: You served on a career panel for the NCAA Future Coaches Academy in January, and then spoke to the NCAA Champions Forum in June. Was it exciting to look out into the crowd and see so many potential head coaches out there?

A: It is extremely exciting because there are a lot of coaches I know who are capable of being good head coaches. I like to share my experiences with them and help with some of the mistakes I made so they won’t do the same. I am excited about the number of younger guys in the Academy. It gives me further access to future talent as potential coordinators. I like getting to know both groups, the experts and the future coaches.




NCAA head football coach race/ethnicity demographics (as of August 2010)

DIVISION I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) (15 out of 119)


Head Coach


University of Kansas

Turner Gill

African American

University of Houston

Kevin Sumlin

African American

University of New Mexico

Mike Locksley

African American

U.S. Naval Academy

Ken Niumatalolo

Pacific Islander

University of Miami

Randy Shannon

African American

Florida International

Mario Cristobal


Miami of Ohio

Mike Haywood

African American

Eastern Michigan University

Ron English

African American

New Mexico State University

Dwayne Walker

African American

University of Memphis

Larry Porter

African American

University of Virginia

Mike London

African American

Western Kentucky University

Willie Taggart

African American

University of Louisville

Charlie Strong

African American

University of Kentucky

Joker Phillips

African American

East Carolina

Ruffin McNeill

African American

DIVISION I Football Bowl Subdivision (Head Coach in Waiting)




University of Maryland

James Franklin

African American

DIVISION I Football Championship Subdivision  (FCS) (7 out of 101)


Head Coach



Norries Wilson

African American

Indiana State

Trent Miles

African American

Northern Arizona

Jerome Souers

American Indian

Southeast Missouri State

Tony Samuel

African American

Yale University

Tom Williams

African American

Portland State

Nigel Burton

African American

University of Richmond

Latrell Scott

African American

DIVISION II (3 out of 133)


Head Coach


Wayne State

Paul Winters

African American

Stonehill College

Robert Talley

African American

Missouri S&T

David Brown

African American

DIVISION III (8 out 229)


Head Coach


Salisbury State

Sherman Wood

African American

Randolph- Macon

Pedro Arruza


Chapman University

Bob Owens

African American

DePauw University

Robby Long

African American

Widener University

Isaac Collins

African American

Greenville College

Ordell Walker

African American

Capital University

Henry Stanford

African American

Williams College

Aaron Kelton

African American