One step forward
Black coaches intrigued by Willingham's hiringPosted: Monday December 31, 2001 1:33 PM
By Stewart Mandel, CNNSI.com
LOS ANGELES – Players, coaches and media here for Thursday’s Rose Bowl national championship awoke Monday to news of Tyrone Willingham’s imminent hiring at Notre Dame.
And if they didn’t, they found out soon enough.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” said Nebraska quarterbacks coach Turner Gill when asked for his reaction at an 8 a.m. PST news conference.
Gill, like Willingham, is black. He knows that in a sport that has long been criticized for its lack of minority head coaches – five in Division I-A this year – the hiring of Willingham to perhaps the most glamorous post in the country is sure to raise some eyebrows. But he isn’t ready to make any historic proclamations.
“I think it would open some more opportunities. I don’t think it’s going to be a floodgate of African-American coaches,” said Gill. “Hopefully, presidents and athletic directors take a little more deeper looks at minorities at a lot of universities – head coaching and coordinator.”
Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, also black, acknowledged that the pressure will be even greater than usual on the first black head coach of any kind at Notre Dame.
“African-American coaches, I think, put pressure on themselves to do a good job because they want other African-Americans to be able to get jobs,” he said. “They want to succeed for other coaches.”
Still, Shannon says, the criteria for whether Willingham succeeds won’t be unique.
“Just win,” said Shannon. “If minority coaches do a great job, win, there will be a bunch of minority coaches. You can change a lot of criticism and bad blood by winning.”