What, you didn’t know? Well, why in the hell not?
Oh yeah, because you couldn’t hear over Charles Barkely (and others) crying "race" because of Auburn’s snubbing of Gill for Gene Chizik.
Was racism involved in the whirlwind circus that was the Auburn head coaching search? It’s hard to say for sure, but I, for one, would be inclined to think so. Of course, the fans, players, university, and athletics administrators could not likely care less about their head coach’s ethnicity (and I mean this with absolute sincerity). The network of G.O.B. boosters which exist at many, many schools including Auburn and who ultimately control who are and aren’t hired are the likely source of this problem. Yes, crusty, old, white men who still think the world works in a way akin to an episode of Leave it to Beaver likely don’t take incredibly kindly to minorities; especially the empowered variety who decide to *gasp* marry white people.
It is a problem and it is real.
But why is it that in many, many sports issues when the SEC is involved, race immediately becomes an issue?
Let’s be frank: a great deal of unwarranted pressure is placed on the SEC with regards to minority coaching. Nebraska turned Gill down last season and, as previously mentioned, Syracuse did the same this season. Yet, nobody’s out to paint the Big XII or Big East as racists. Neither the Big XII, Pac 10, Big 10, Big East, nor the SEC have black head coaches. The only black head coach in BCS football is Miami’s Randy Shannon who, after doing an excellent job thus far in rebuilding the proud Hurricanes program, has just as much job security as the next guy.
Maybe this is because, as the nation’s premier conference (don’t even get me started, Big XII dissenters), all eyes are upon us.
Maybe this is because the talking heads both really seem to like Tommy Tuberville and Turner Gill. While they’re both certainly deserving of media love, the admiration could explain the heightened attention to the situation.
Or maybe, just maybe, this is because the idea of the SEC being populated (or perhaps simply controlled) by a slew of bigots fits neatly in the ideas and perceptions many have about the South. Let’s be honest: we’re supposed to be backwards, racist, illiterates who have but the slightest clue of modern technology. The fact that our football conference leads the college football universe in attendance, revenue generation, NFL star production, BCS titles, and TV deals (ESPN = the new SEC network) does not fit into these preconceived notions.
Look, America is confusing. Never before have so many different peoples been so agreeably and successfully unified. We’re all so very different yet all so very alike. Because of this confusion, people fabricate ideas (poor, racist Southerners; arrogant, latté-sipping Bay Area dwellers; rude, smartassed New Yorkers; et cetera) in an attempt to make sense of everything and, when these prejudices don’t exactly work out as hoped, they freak out a little.
In all fairness, many people couldn’t give much more of a shit. But to pretend as if anti-Southern prejudices do not exist is some real-deal, Auburn-booster-style ignorance.
Racism certainly is a problem in college football, but it’s certainly not as big of a problem as the Charles Barkleys of the world would have you believe. Furthermore, the problem is not isolated to a particular geography. You’d be ignorant to suggest otherwise.
How can it be fixed?
Honestly, I feel this problem will remedy itself over the next few seasons. Many (white) head coaches have hired diverse assistant coaching staffs which have put several minority coaches on the fast track to head coaching status. As we all know, being a majorly contributing coordinator is the easiest way to get your foot in the door to becoming a head coach. Schools are hesitant to hire folks with little experience and success beyond the coordinator level regardless of race. If a concerted effort was placed in preparing minority candidates for eventual head coaching roles instead of simply crying "race" when big-name programs don’t put all their eggs in an inexperienced, overvalued basket we would relatively quickly and agreeably eliminate this issue.
There are plenty of deserving candidates of varying backgrounds for numerous coaching positions across the country. If the fans, players, and administrators had a greater say in these matters, I feel we’d be able to realize this more clearly.
To coach Gill: you'll get your shot one day. Keep-on keepin'-on with that wifey of yours.