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Coach-In-Waiting Plan Needs to Go

Feb 7, 2009 – 5:00 PM
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Kevin Blackistone

Kevin Blackistone %BloggerTitle%

Jimbo Fisher / Bobby BowdenHaste always invites waste. Such was the case with my 30-second rant last Friday at the end of Around the Horn against the trend of college coaches designating successors.

I expressed my amazement that Ralph Friedgen, the football coach at Maryland where I started teaching last semester, announced last Friday that he was tagging one of his assistants to be the program's coach when his contract ends in three years. I argued that I didn't think Friedgen had earned that right.

More important, I suggested that the growing movement of naming a head coach-in-waiting undermined equal opportunity in coaching.

What I didn't point out was that the successor Friedgen named, James Franklin, is black. Therefore, my argument appeared to have a rather large hole.

It does not.

What Friedgen suggested and Maryland signed off on with Franklin is an exception. This is the norm: Florida State's Bobby Bowden said Jimbo Fisher will replace him, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said Chip Kelly will replace him, and Texas coach Mack Brown said Will Muschamp will replace him.

Also, Joe Paterno, should he ever retire, is suspected to be considering longtime assistant Tom Bradley to replace him. And Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer is said to be considering Bud Foster to replace him.

All of those designates, or potential designates, are white. Those are five jobs where no-need-to-apply signs may as well be hung at the door.

The only other exception is Kentucky where Rich Brooks said he wants Joker Phillips, a young black assistant, to succeed him.

White or black, this is an unfair hiring process because it isn't a hiring process at all. It is as closed a search as there ever was. Just because one black coach or two benefits from it doesn't make it right. And most of these schools are publicly funded, not private like a mom-and-pop operation where the transfer of control within the family is expected and tolerated.

I'm not alone in my concern.

"We really need to emphasize that designating a successor ... closes off inclusion, it closes off opening up interviews for all top candidates," NCAA vice president for diversity and inclusion Charlotte Westerhaus told USA Today last December. "And if you close that off, you will inevitably close off the opportunity to diversity the ranks of college football."

The coach-in-waiting plan is just a newfangled extension of the good ol' boy network.

Kevin B. Blackistone is a panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn, the Shirley Povich Chair in Sports Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, and a frequent sports opinionist on other outlets. A former award-winning sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News, he currently lives in Silver Spring, Md.

Filed under: Sports