Friday, January 26, 2007


Earlier this week, I was having a chat with some friends about the upcoming Super Bowl. As native Hoosiers, we all expressed some degree of allegiance to the Indianapolis Colts, and the majority of us expressed our solid support for the blue-clad warriors from the Circle City. When we began to discuss the coaching situation, our conversation took an interesting turn.

At this point, please allow me to interject a significant fact which may not be known to readers who are not sports enthusiasts: Never, ever before has a team led by an African-American coach even made it to the Super Bowl. Never. In this year's Super Bowl, both of the teams involved are coached by African-Americans. Tony Dungy has done a masterful job leading the Colts to the title game, and Lovie Smith has done the same with the Chicago Bears.

The fact that two African-American coaches are involved in this year's Super Bowl has certainly not been lost on the media. As soon as the Colts had completed their amazing come-from-behind victory over the New England Patriots, the talking heads began making much ado about the impending battle between the two coaches of color. There is no doubt that the Dungy-Smith matchup will be the subject of many stories this week, and probably for years to come after that.

With this backdrop, as my friends and I discussed the upcoming Super Bowl, one of them observed that, in his opinion, too much is being made of the coaching matchup. In my friend's opinion, Dungy and Smith should not be held up as being outstanding black coaches; rather, to his way of thinking, they should be considered only as coaches, with their race being irrelevant. In his view, it diminishes the accomplishments of the coaches if too much is made of the fact that they are African-Americans.

I know where my friend is coming from, and I know that his heart is in the right place. He truly believes that all people should be considered equally. He thinks of Dungy and Smith as outstanding coaches, period, and he thinks that not too much should be made of the race factor.

I believe that, if we lived in a perfect world, my friend's view would be absolutely correct. Race shold not be a factor. However, especially when it comes to equity for African-American coaches, we certainly do not live in a perfect world. Far from it. Coming into the football season last fall, there were only six black head coaches in all of the NFL. Three of them: Dungy, Smith and Marvin Lewis of the Bengals, have now established themselves as the league's top coaches.

In the college ranks, the situation is much worse. There are 119 Division 1-A teams. Coming into last season, there were precisely five Divison 1-A head coaches who were African-American. That is a truly dismal statistic, and it shows that we still have a long, long way to go to establish equity in opportunity for African-Americans who desire to be head football coaches.

The fact that Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith have made it to face one another in the Super Bowl this year is remarkable because of the fact that coaches of color have so regularly and systematically been excluded from the opportunity to become head coaches. The fact that they have made it to the grand stage should be rejoiced. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to celebrate their accomplishment too much.

It is my fervent hope that the head coaching matchup in this year's Super Bowl will be an eye-opener to us all, and that it will engender greater opportunity for otherAfrican-Americans who have the talent to become head coaches, but have been denied that chance. In this regard, a level playing field is long overdue.

--The Meatbe


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not get carried away here, Jonesy. Remember Ron Cooper? Do you want to bring him back?

I didn't think so.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Meatbe said...

Ron Cooper was not a good coach when he was at U of L. So what? His experience was one isolated case, and that should have no bearing on whether others should be provided the opportunity.

Karl Dorrell is doing an excellent coaching job at UCLA, and I know that he was considered for the 'Ville job when Bobby Petrino left. I would have been fine if Dorrell had been hired at U of L, because he has proven himself to be a good coach.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Dont forget!

11:34 PM  
Blogger John Manzo said...

What made this instance so remarkable is that it didn't happen before. Tony Dungy, in his remarks, said that there were many other African American coaches who were equally qualified and just as good as him who didn't have the opportunity. This was a good and notable event----and it will be even better when race isn't even discussed. It's when it's no longer an issue (because of total acceptance) that we have truly grown.

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Blogger John Manzo said...

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Blogger lawguy said...

I thought that equally interesting was Dungy's post game comment that he was just as proud of the fact that he and Lovie Smith were both "christian coaches". I'm certainly not a holy roller myself, but the fact that these guys can motivate and get the most from their players without yelling, cussing or other similar vulgarities is really rather profound in this day and age.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Meem said...

AMEN to lawguy....
Although I am not walking the walk,
talking the talk, nor practicing the faith, I was particularly touched by Dungy's postgame comments. Given what he has
faced and endured during the past
year, it is amazing to me that he
was able to function and accomplish
what he did. Tongue definitely in
cheek, didja know that people of
color feel as much pain as white
folk when they lose a child? I can only imagine.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marvin lewis is one of the top three coachs??? his teams seem to fold to me. Colts did until this year. To say that those three are the top coaches is going a little overboard, I mean over the past five seasons-----I think New England has had a pretty decent coach as well

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