February 3, 2023

Hugh Freeze returns to the Southeastern Conference with enough luggage to fill a jumbo jet.

He turned his last SEC job into “Freeze Gone Wild” by using a university-issued cellphone to call an escort service while directing enough scandalous behavior to land Ole Miss on NCAA parole.

Even now, with Freeze taking over at Auburn, there are questions about him bullying a Liberty student on social media when she called his last employer.

But Freeze had a huge advantage when the Tigers were looking for a new head football coach.

He is white.

As we jump aboard another merry-go-round of coaching fires and hiring, an all-too-familiar pattern at college football’s highest level remains firmly intact.

Black coaches – with the exception, it seems, of Deion Sanders – do not have to apply.

Chances are they won’t even get recalled.

The past few days have shown how ingrained the lack of opportunities for minority coaches is in a system that constantly talks about the need for change but seems intent on making this a predominantly white profession.

– Freeze is a downright awkward choice for the Auburn job, but those kinds of decisions have become the norm for a program that has long been dominated by celebrity boosters who care nothing more than to maintain their power and with the to keep up with rival Alabama. The fanbase appeared to favor former Auburn star Cadillac Williams, a black assistant who took over as interim coach when Bryan Harsin was fired after less than two years on the job. Williams breathed much-needed life into the program, but the Tigers went with Freeze and introduced him at a press conference that was essentially a mea culpa for all his past transgressions.

“Please give me a chance to earn your trust,” he pleaded with Tiger Nation, doing all but getting on his hands and knees. “Give me some time. Get to know us. Get to know our family. Get to know the truth of our story.”

Is there anyone who truly believes that if all else were equal, only Freeze was black and Williams was white, that Auburn would have gone the same way?

– Another school in Alabama, UAB, went completely outside the box and managed to stay firmly in the white-dominated system by hiring a head coach with no college experience. Trent Dilfer may garner attention as a former NFL quarterback and media personality, but his coaching life begins and ends at the high school level.

– Arizona State, which fired black coach Herm Edwards during the season, hired Oregon State offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham as his replacement. Dillingham is 32 years old, making him the youngest coach on a Power Five program. While he has served as an assistant on some major programs, last season was his first as the primary play-caller. He just has such a big program of his own.

— Texas State, a school looking to make its mark at the burgeoning Sun Belt Conference, hired 34-year-old GJ Kinne on Friday after a season as the head coach of FCS school Incarnate Word.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey sounded almost embarrassed when asked about the lack of black people in head coaching positions — perhaps because his powerful league was struggling to shake off its segregationist history.

None of the SEC’s 14 members are currently managed by a coach of color, though 10 of those jobs have changed since the start of the 2020 season (and Auburn has done so twice).

The country’s most important football conference has been integrated into the pitch for more than 50 years. Rather not on the sidelines. Only four schools — Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M — have ever had a black head coach.

“One of the glaring gaps in our league is the lack of anything other than a white person to lead our teams as head football coach,” Sankey said. “We’ve seen diversification in this league, but not in the role of head football coach.”

Maryland coach Mike Locksley, who founded the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches two years ago, sounds a little more hopeful.

He said in an interview on Friday that more and more schools are reaching out to his organization in a meaningful way and are sincerely looking for minority candidates who could be a good fit. The group has also launched a mentoring program that matches promising young coaches with sporting directors across the country.

“People hire people they know, people they’re comfortable with,” Locksley said. “The more we can get into these rooms with the officials who do the hiring, the more minority coaches we’ve reviewed and know they have the tools to succeed, the more we’ll introduce them to the headhunters, athletic directors and university presidents.” suspend . That’s a big part of it.”

He acknowledged that it can be frustrating at times, especially when faced with some daunting realities.

As the 2022 season began, there were 15 Black head coaches among 131 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, a pitiful 11% of the total in a sport where more than half of the players identify as Black.

That number dropped to 11 with the midseason firings of Edwards and Colorado’s Karl Dorrell, Florida Atlantic’s postseason firing of Willie Taggart, and the retirement of longtime Stanford coach David Shaw.

As of Friday, seven vacancies had been filled — all by white coaches. Seven positions remained open, including Power Five jobs in Stanford and Colorado and Big 12-Bound Cincinnati.

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