Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Race To Remember

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As always, winter brings that perennial chill across the college coaching circuit. Without the warmth of success, some coaches will be stripped bare and facing the cold world of unemployment. For some, new opportunities come quickly. But for others, it can be a long winter wait. And if you’re UCLA’s Karl Dorrell, one can only wonder if he’s being used as a pawn in a very stupid game.

Karl Dorrell had little success with the Bruins. He surrendered the best Southern California talent to his rivaled Trojans and the Golden Bears up north. In 5 seasons at UCLA, his teams have never played in a January Bowl game, posting a record of 1-4 in the lesser bowls. He beat Pete Carroll and his cross town rivals just once, while also posting an 0-2 record against Charlie Weis and Notre Dame. In contrast, the team across town has won 2 national championships and 6 conference titles in that same period.

So here comes the puzzling part. Immediately after the firing of Karl Dorrell, why did his name suddenly appear on so many coaching wish lists? Where is the rush to talk to Lloyd Carr? All he did was win a national championship, his conference, and 75% of his games. Why aren’t we seeing Bill Callahan’s name thrown around? He’s an unemployed loser too. Dennis Franchione got fired after back to back victories over rival Texas. Doesn’t anyone want to interview him? Then it came to me, though I don’t want to believe it. Could it be? Is it possible? Does this have nothing to do with the man that is Karl Dorrell, but everything to do with the race of Karl Dorrell?

The BCA was quick to voice their resentment over Texas A&M and Mississippi not interviewing any minority coaching candidates, before making their final hire. And just weeks after the BCA was heard, not only did Karl Dorrell get fired and instantly have interviews lined up, another minority name from the past, Norm Chow, surfaces for vacant coaching positions.

Dorrell may be a good man, and assisted in cleaning up the UCLA program. But let’s be real, he stinks as a head coach. His Bruins have underachieved in every year of his tenure. But if programs are using him to fulfill a “quota” to satisfy the BCA, that is just shameful. If you have no interest in hiring him, don’t waste his time. The NCAA does not have any mandatory rules in place, regarding minority hiring. And instead of facing the humiliation of having the BCA breathing down their necks and leaving a check mark against the institution, we have programs that would rather humiliate a man, by using him as a game piece.

The BCA has great intentions, but they’ve created this new element in hiring practices. Sometimes they are too quick to criticize, when programs like Ole Miss obviously had all intention of hiring Houston Nutt, once he resigned from Arkansas. They once criticized USC for the hiring of Pete Carroll, without interviewing a minority candidate. It was USC’s AD Mike Garrett, an African American that made the hire.

There is no simple solution. And for the most part, I believe a program will chase a name on its merits and not a color. Washington’s Tyrone Willingham was hired by 3 programs since 2001. All hirings were based on his production and resume, and not his skin color.
Randy Shannon was hired by the University of Miami, gaining recognition for the work he had done for the program over the years. Nebraska didn’t have Turner Gill on their short list because of his race, but because of his accomplishments in Buffalo.

Karl Dorrell has accomplished nothing, has a weak resume, and his name is still tossed around. He has interviewed with Duke, and it’ll be interesting to see if they will hire him. Duke’s football program is garbage, so they shouldn’t have high expectations of their next coach. It’ll also be interesting, if Duke doesn’t make the hire, to see who else comes calling, and if Dorrell will be coaching in the future.

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