Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Introducing...Randy Shannon

The University of Miami, or “The U” as it is fondly referred to by many, has hired Randy Shannon as its head football coach. Shannon becomes the sixth black head coach at the 119 Division I-A football schools, joining Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, UCLA's Karl Dorrell, Buffalo's Turner Gill, Kansas State's Ron Prince and Washington's Tyrone Willingham. Here are my thoughts on this hiring, in no particular order:

  • I am not surprised that college football as an institution has been slow to hire minority coaches. College football is one of the few strongholds of the “Good Ole’ Boys” network, especially in the southern United States.
  • I will be closely watching how the Randy Shannon hire plays out in the University of Miami community. The wealthy boosters at football institutions like Miami are usually more important in hiring coaches than the athletic director (which points directly to the atrocious minority hiring record of the Division I-A football schools). I am curious to see how much time the boosters give Shannon to turn things around there.
  • The Randy Shannon hire marks the second time in recent memory that a black coach has been given the opportunity to return a once-proud football institution to its glory. Notre Dame hired Tyrone Willingham in 2002 with hopes of returning “The University of College Football” (Notre Dame) to the status that its boosters felt it belonged. Willingham had a very good first year, leading the team to an 8-3 record and the school’s first BCS game. However, as soon as the team slipped (and a high-profile coach, Charlie Weiss, became available), the boosters made it clear that Willingham was no longer wanted. And predictably, Willingham was fired.
  • While not as storied as Notre Dame, Miami has built a strong football tradition in a relatively short amount of time, earning the nickname “Football U” because of the number of players drafted into the NFL. It has also earned the reputation as being a school full of rebellious athletes in a lawless environment. Some of this reputation is well earned, as seen during the brawl earlier this year, but these situations could also happen anywhere. At least part of Miami’s reputation has to do with America’s need to control black men. Outspoken athletes like Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, all former members of Miami’s football squad, are just the type of black male individuals America fears. Labeling Miami “lawless” is just a simple defense mechanism used to deal with the fear.
  • Being from Miami and having played for the University’s 1987 National Championship team, Randy Shannon has been a popular figure since he returned as an assistant coach in 2001. Given the fact that his defenses have ranked in the top 10 in the nation every year proves that he is more than capable of motivating young men to play disciplined football.
  • I admire his wishes to be viewed as just “a ball coach,” instead of being labeled as a minority football coach. However we all know, whatever his wishes are, that he’ll be looked at as a black football coach, representing the abilities of all black coaches.
  • Given the ever-changing recruiting landscape (the top high school athletes do not only play for the biggest “name” schools), coaching is no longer as simple as finding the best talent. A college coach has to be a good “X’s and O’s” guy, or at least be able to identify the best assistants who can do that job. I have no doubt that Randy Shannon has the capabilities to be a fine coach; I hope that the boosters at the University of Miami give him the opportunity to prove his worth.

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