Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tony Dungy

Let me make my biases and prejudices clear. If this were written by some politician or activist I wouldn't give it the time of day. But if Coach Dungy is saying it, then I am paying attention.
With the progress that has been made in terms of diversity in politics, in other collegiate sports and in professional football - Edwards, Smith and Tomlin all got top jobs in the NFL ( and so did you, Coach Dungy -Spider) - why is college football hiring so far behind? At a seminar last spring in Indianapolis with other NFL and college head coaches and university athletic directors, I asked that very question, and was enlightened by the responses of those directors. The biggest factor, they said, was the involvement of other people associated with the universities. It was not just the president and the athletic director who made the hiring decisions - alumni and boosters were involved, and the presidents often felt pressure to hire coaches the boosters would support.

That appears to be the biggest difference between the NFL and the NCAA in hiring practices. While a university president may have to appease alumni, Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, can hire someone like Tomlin without having to consult anyone else.
Coach Dungy is being too kind. Boosters and alumni help pay the salary of the head coach, so they have a great influence. What I appreciate about the coach is that he isn't advocating gummint intervention or regulation, but the same kind of approach he uses with the All Pro Dads program. Guys know what's right, he encourages and maybe shames them a little into doing it.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a squadron of black fighter pilots back in WW2. Their mission was to escort bombers on sorties over Germany and protect them from Nazi fighter planes. They were the last choice for bomber squadrons because of prejudice. That is until it was noticed that every bomber that went out under their care made it back home. The Germans were a little fraidy-scared of them. They were even given a name by the Deutschers, die Schwartzvogeln (the Blackbirds). The Tuskegee Airman became the unit of choice for bombers, not because of any epiphany of tolerance, but because these guys gave you the best chance of making it back in one piece.

One day boosters and alumni will learn this lesson. I don't know how many 3-8 seasons it will take before they decide to hire someone who can win ballgames, but eventually they will learn this lesson.

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