By Greg Johnson
NCAA Associate Director, Publishing
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but the hiring of minority college football coaches gained traction in early November after former NFL coach Tony Dungy and college athletics administrators discussed the issue at the NCAA office.
Since then, 11 minorities have been hired to lead college football programs. Seven of the hires occurred in the Football Bowl Subdivision, while the Football Championship Subdivision and Division III each added two minority coaches.
“We may be turning a corner because that sends the message that guys are going to get chances everywhere,” said Dungy, who coached the Indianapolis Colts to a victory in Super Bowl XLI.
Dungy praised athletics directors and university presidents for seeking diverse pools and selecting the best candidates from them. “In many cases, they’ve done that. It has turned out well. Many long-time assistants have gotten rewarded,” he said.
One example is Charlie Strong, whom Louisville hired December 8. Strong was the defensive coordinator for Florida when the Gators won Bowl Championship Series titles in 2006 and 2008.
Dungy, who works as an NFL analyst on NBC, was particularly pleased with the hires of Mike London at Virginia, Turner Gill at Kansas and Strong. They all happened in conferences (the ACC, Big 12 and Big East respectively) whose champions automatically qualify into BCS bowl games.
He compared those hires to what he experienced in the NFL. When Dungy received the job at Tampa Bay in 1996, the Buccaneers had a history of losing. Dungy turned the franchise around a year later by making the playoffs.
His success helped other minority coaches such as Herm Edwards (New York Jets), Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears) and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers) gain head coaching jobs.
“Those are plum jobs,” Dungy said. “That’s when you knew we’d kind of turned a corner in terms of NFL minority hiring. The same thing is going on in college football right now.”
Dungy said, though, that there’s a long way to go before football hiring catches up with the employment environment in college basketball.
“Down the road there may come a time when you get three or four minority coaches hired and that’s not the headline,” he said. “The headlines will be along the lines of ‘What is this guy going to do with this job and what’s going to happen with the program?’ ”
Today, Dungy is enjoying life away from the sidelines. He’s becoming more involved in the college game for personal reasons. His son Eric signed a National Letter of Intent earlier this month to play football at Oregon. Eric Dungy, who played at Plant High School in Tampa, Florida, figures to be either a receiver or a safety with the Ducks.
Dungy liked his son’s approach to the recruiting process, although he would like to see some reform in that area as well. He believes too much pressure is placed on the recruits during their junior year of high school to commit to a program.
Eric Dungy was told by some programs that they had received commitments from other prospects and couldn’t wait for his decision.
While a recruit can’t sign a National Letter of Intent until February of his senior year, the future is now for coaching staffs.
“There is pressure to make things happen faster,” said Dungy, who said the process is completely different from when he was recruited to play quarterback at Minnesota in the 1970s.
“For some people, that is a good thing because they can concentrate on their senior year of high school,” Dungy said. “But as a whole, a lot of things can happen between the summer of your junior year and the winter of your senior year. It should all come down to where you feel comfortable as a student and an athlete.”