On Saturday at high noon, Michigan and Ohio State will take the field in what may be the most anticipated matchup in the history of the greatest rivalry in all of sports. And for the first time since the Maize and Blue and Scarlet and Gray have been battling, a Black man will be serving as a head coach. Michigan’s Sherrone Moore’s defining moment won’t just be a historic mark, it’s proof that diversity in college football is just as bad, or worse than it is in the NFL.
Don’t ever tell me that hiring decisions should be based on “the best person for the job,” when the best person for the job continues to conveniently be white men.
“It has not really hit me, and it probably will the week of,” Moore said when he was asked about it after Michigan’s win over Maryland last Saturday.
Last week was a big one for the Wolverines, and not just because they survived the haunted “trap game” before “The Game.” It was because Michigan’s 31-24 victory over the Terrapins gave the winningest program in college football history 1,000 wins. The first and only program to do that, as Ohio State ironically sits behind them at No. 2 on the list.
But of the 1,000 wins that Michigan has racked up, only 3.5 of them were won by a Black coach. Moore has wins against Bowling Green, Penn State, and Maryland. Running Backs coach Mike Hart has a half-a-win over UNLV.
“It’s a great honor,” Hart said after he became the first Black coach to win a game at Michigan, besting Moore earlier this season. Hart split duties and coached a half of football for the Wolverines. “I had a chance to play for Tony Dungy, I had a chance to play for Jim Caldwell. My first coaching job was with Ron English at Eastern Michigan. We have an athletic director in Warde Manuel that’s African American. I’ve had a close relationship (with Manuel) since he’s been here. I just had a lot of great coaches who are African American that I’ve had a chance to look up to. Just really let me know that it can happen, it’s a possibility. Hopefully, we see more African-American coaches in college football. We need more. I will be one of those one day, and it’s really just a great honor. This is my university. I played here; this place changed my life. To have that opportunity to always say I was the first African American head coach here is huge.”
The only reason Hart and Moore got chances to be interim coaches this year is due to the suspensions that Jim Harbaugh has been under twice this season. No suspensions equal no Black coaches in Ann Arbor. But, it’s not like the Buckeyes have been any better.
“The biggest issue most of us have is getting an opportunity,” said Larry Johnson. Back in 2020, Johnson became the first Black head football coach in Ohio State history when he filled in when Ryan Day was out with COVID-19. Ohio State defeated Michigan State 52-12, meaning that Black coaches are undefeated when filling in for the Buckeyes and Wolverines. “There are a lot of great Black coaches doing a great job, and the toughest thing is when they fail or their programs don’t see change quickly, and they don’t get another shot. I root for them every day because their success gives a chance for the next guy to move forward,” Johnson explained.
Entering the 2013 season, of the 133 FBS programs that play college football, only 15 of them were led by Black head coaches. That is a sad indication of not only how college football mirrors the NFL, but of society in itself, as much news hasn’t been made about what Sherrone Moore is about to embark on.
Saturday’s game will go a long way in determining who makes the College Football Playoffs, as TV ratings records are sure to be set. But despite what team you root for on Saturday, know that college football loses when Black coaches like Sherrone Moore, Mike Hart, and Larry Johnson rarely get chances to take the big stage.
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