Three more Blacks who could rescue Gopher football

By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer

A lack of ‘notoriety’ should not rule out these seasoned coaches

A barely-got-noticed historic occasion in college football took place two weekends ago. Virginia defeated Eastern Michigan by 27 points October 23 in a first-ever game where two schools with a Black head football coach and a Black athletic director met as opposing teams.

Mike London (coach) and Craig Littlepage (AD) for Virginia hosted Ron English and Dr. Derrick Gragg, coach and athletic director respectively, for Eastern Michigan.

The University of Minnesota once made history during the 1990s when both basketball programs were led by Black head coaches. It’s now time for the university to again make history by hiring its first Black head football coach.

After Gopher Athletics Director Joel Maturi was quoted saying he will hire someone who will “bring instant credibility and notoriety to the football program,” and knowing there are only a handful of Black head college football coaches. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) notwithstanding” this columnist immediately asked Maturi if this means that Blacks automatically are ruled out.

“One of the first calls I’ve made was to Floyd Keith, the head of the Black Coaches [and Administrators], and asked him for all and any recommendations that he might have,” Maturi quickly explained. “I am very willing to look at every qualified candidate that would fit the Gophers, including all qualified Black candidates.”

Among the 12 names the mainstream press has already suggested are three comfortable, popular Blacks who mainstream reporters always mention when talking about Black candidates, Tony Dungy, Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier, and current Houston Head Coach Kevin Sumlin.

Let me give you three quick reasons why these men won’t be Tim Brewster’s successor:

One, no former Black NFL head coach such as Dungy has ever been hired as a major college head coach. Two, Frazier has been oft-rumored for a possible NFL head-coaching job. And three, Sumlin, a former U of M assistant, has turned around the Cougars program, so why would he leave to essentially rebuild another one?

Instead, I suggest three other potential candidates:

Virginia’s London: Before he was hired there, he coached Richmond to the 2008 Football Championship Series (FCS) national title and reached the FCS quarterfinals the following season. He has 21 years’ experience overall.

Rod Broadway, head coach, Grambling State: The 29-year coaching veteran came to Grambling in 2007 after a successful stint at North Carolina Central.

He served as defensive line coach at four Division I schools, including five seasons under Steve Spurrier at Florida (1995-00), where his defensive units led the SEC in sacks three years and set a school record for rush defense.

Henry Frazier III, six-year head coach, Prairie View A&M: Before his arrival, the school posted consecutive one-win campaigns. Ever since, he has eclipsed the win totals of the last 11 Prairie View coaches. He also coached his alma mater Bowie State into one of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s best.

All three coaches are “€œlegitimate candidates,” says Mark Gray, who covers HBCU football as a broadcaster. London “has instilled discipline, focus and intensity, and has invigorated the fan base as a football program at Virginia,” he notes.

Broadway has “won in places that were difficult to win,” including North Carolina Central, where “he raised the bar” by winning back-to-back league championships during the early 2000s, says Gray. And Frazier already turned around one program, Bowie State, “with no resources and no [winning] reputation,” continuing his success at his present job.

Also, all three “understand the whole concept of student-athletes and winning, and know how to put the student-athletes in the position to win,” continues Gray, who hosts a Washington, D.C. nightly sports talk show. Whether it’s London, Broadway or Henry Frazier, these men “could structure [a] program that would raise football at Minnesota,” he believes.

Even more important, any of the three coaches could recruit players from areas such as D.C. and North Carolina virtually untouched by previous U of M coaches, Gray points out. All three have “East Coast ties” and could convince “top-20 kid out of Florida who was overlooked” to come to Minnesota. “Once you get your [recruiting] pipelines in fertile grounds, it could open up the world.”

Watching the Gophers play Ohio State last weekend was like seeing the jayvees versus varsity. For this reason, along with Gray’s excellent recommendations, these three Black men deserve serious consideration as the next Gopher football coach.

“Charles, I’m going to look for help anyplace I can get it,” pledged Maturi. “I am going to find the best qualified candidate that I can.”

Another Gopher vacancy filled

Last week, U of M Women’s Basketball Head Coach Pam Borton hired Shanna Rich as the team’s new director of basketball operations. “She has been a big part of our program. She will do an outstanding job in this position,” says Borton on Rich, a Florida A&M graduate who joined the staff as a volunteer and was named an administrative assistant a year ago.

“I am responsible for the whole team, four coaches and 13 players, making sure everything goes smoothly,” notes Rich, who becomes the first Black woman to hold this position under Borton. (An extended interview with Rich can be read on our “Another View” blog at challman.wordpress.com.)

Finally!

Well deserved and earned congratulations to MSR Senior Sports Columnist Kwame McDonald, who last Friday was among five 2010 inductees to the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Honor.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.