12/18/09 — Opinion -- New coaches Gill, Strong add diversity

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Opinion -- New coaches Gill, Strong add diversity

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 18, 2009 1:46 PM

The first few steps have begun in a journey in which many miles remain to be traveled.

Over the past few weeks five African-Americans have been hired as head football coaches at Division 1-A schools bringing the total number of minority coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision to 12.

After 26 years as an assistant coach, former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was introduced as the new head coach at Louisville last week. Former Buffalo head coach Turner Gill has been named head coach at Kansas.

Strong, who broke into coaching as a graduate assistant at Florida in 1983, has been a part of two national championship teams and coached in 20 bowl games.

During Strong's four different stints at Florida he has coached 13 All-Americans, a National Defensive Player of the Year, a Jack Tatum Award winner, two SEC Defensive Freshmen of the Year and the 2008 Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year.

He has developed six first-round NFL draft picks and 15 players who were selected in the third round or higher. Strong has interviewed for numerous head coaching vacancies in the past and repeatedly been considered a finalist for jobs before ultimately coming up short.

His interracial marriage is no secret and he addressed the role this issue may play in his quest to become a head coach at a press conference in January of this year.

"Everybody always said I didn't get that job because my wife is white," said Strong. "If you think about it, a coach is standing up there representing the university. If you're not strong enough to look through that (interracial marriage), then you have an issue."

Gill, a former quarterback at Nebraska, has been the head coach at Buffalo for the past four seasons. He took over a program that had won more than two games just once in the previous seven seasons and guided it to a share of the MAC Eastern Division title in his second year (2007).

The following season he led the Bulls to a league championship and the school's first-ever bowl appearance. He earned MAC Coach of the Year honors in both 2007 and 2008, and was a finalist for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year award in 2008.

A year ago, 55 percent of all student athletes were minorities. Yet, among the 120 schools that currently field Division 1-A football teams just 12 of them have African-American head coaches.

Strong and Gill join Miami's Randy Shannon and newly-hired Virginia head coach Mike London as the only African-American coaches at BCS schools. Neither the SEC or the Pac-10, conferences that traditionally produce schools competing for national championships, currently have African-American head coaches.

As we're now just days away from 2010, it's time for college football and sports as a whole to begin looking past the color of a person's skin and realize that in order to treat people equally we must start by treating them differently.