THE GREAT BLACK HOPE
In his state-of-the-NFL conference last Friday in San Diego, commissioner Pete Rozelle acknowledged that the league should have a black head coach: "I can't say I like us being called a racist league, but if all the media attention on the problem leads to equal opportunities...then I guess it's good." Rozelle pointed proudly to the fact that there were 14 black assistants in 1980 but 41 at the end of last season. Now roughly 14% of the assistants are black; more than 55% of the players are black.
Two NFL clubs currently have coaching vacancies: the Packers and the Raiders. George Perles, the head coach at Michigan State, who is white, turned down the Packer job, which apparently will go to Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Lindy Infante, who's also white. Black assistants Tony Dungy of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnny Roland of the Chicago Bears and Dennis Green of the San Francisco 49ers interviewed for the job. Raiders chief Al Davis is considering two of his own black assistants, Willie Brown and Art Shell, and Green for the Raiders' opening, but none is apparently on Davis's short list.
At least the Packers and Raiders have considered some black candidates. Shame on any club that hangs on to its coach to avoid being put on the spot, as a couple of them are rumored to have done. And shame on people who grasp at feeble arguments such as the one heard in San Diego that Dungy, for instance, has never run his own program. It should be pointed out that neither did the Super Bowl rivals, Dan Reeves and Joe Gibbs, before they got their head coaching jobs.
Among 16 passengers stuck for 90 minutes on an elevator at the San Diego Marriott, the Super Bowl headquarters hotel, last Friday were ABC announcers Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf, several Super Bowl referees, NFL supervisor of officials Art McNally and—we always try to bring you on-the-scene coverage—SI senior reporter Linda Marsch. Her report:
At 11:40 a.m. the elevator car became stuck between the third and fourth floors as we were going down to the lobby. The officials and I were headed for the commissioner's press conference, while Gifford and Dierdorf were on their way to meet Al Michaels and a limo that was to take them to lunch with Dan Reeves.
Fortunately, one of the officials, Bob McElwee, had had submarine training at the Naval Academy, and he immediately assured us we would be fine in such a confined space.
Somebody found the intercom that connected us to the hotel operator, who immediately said, "Hang on." She kept asking us if we were all right. At first we told her we were fine, but when she asked an hour later, she heard a resounding "No!"
The mood was pretty cheerful, with SI contributing photographer Tony Tomsic providing most of the jokes. He also claimed responsibility for our predicament since he weighs more than 290 pounds and was among the last to get on the elevator. When Tomsic commented that we might eventually turn on one another, Gifford said, "We all hate you now, Tony." Also taking a lot of ribbing were McNally's daughter Rita who works for the Marriott Corporation and was on the elevator, and Jerry Markbreit, yet another NFL field official, who stationed himself just outside the door on the fourth floor and shouted comforting words. Dierdorf told Markbreit that if he rescued us, he—Dierdorf—would forgive Markbreit for a holding call in a long-ago Cardinal-Cowboy game.