Taggart, Edwards Hirings Make News

Willie Taggart

Two more Black head coaches were hired last week by major colleges, bringing the total all the way up to 14. That’s FOURTEEN Black head coaches in FBS out of 130 schools. Not quite 10 percent, but it’s even lower for women or other nonwhites. According to November NCAA statistics, nearly 90 percent of major college presidents (89.2) are white, 83.1 percent of athletic directors and 86.9 percent of head football coaches. Of course the playing ranks are a lot more diverse, with Blacks accounting for nearly 60 percent of players at many major colleges (70 in some cases). But the hiring of Willie Taggart at Florida State is even more significant for another reason: Blacks are now totally in charge of that school’s athletic structure.

Taggart was hired by athletic director Stan Wilcox. Both he and the school’s basketball coach Leonard Hamilton are also Black, making Florida State  University the only Football Bowl Subdivision School in the nation with all three key positions filled by Black men.

It’s only the second time in NCAA history, the first being back in 2012, when Stanford had Bernard Muir as athletic director, David Shaw as head football coach and Johnny Dawkins as head basketball coach. Two of those three are still in place. Ironically, it’s the third time that Taggart has been in this pioneering position, as he was the first Black head coach at both Western Kentucky and Oregon before taking this job.

“I just figured pretty much, for the most part, wherever I go, I’m going to be the first African-American coach,” Taggart told USA Today.“But I do understand my role. And I do understand a lot of people are counting on me to do well and I appreciate that.” Incidentally, the figure isn’t that much better for basketball, but it is now up to 20.8 percent, which is still more than double that for football.

“It’s somewhat historic, and in 2017, we’re still creating historic moments,” said Wilcox, the fourth-year athletics director,  who was promoted to vice president by FSU last year. “It should generate additional conversation to bring awareness to this issue.” There has been some negative comment made about Taggart departing Oregon after only one year, but given the fact he has a long background in Florida and has always considered Florida State his dream job, most reasonable people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Interesting that no such comments were aimed at Scott Frost, who departed the University of Central Florida after one year to return to his alma mater Nebraska. Frost had led UCF to a 12-0 record, and is even going to coach them in a bowl game, but will then leave for Nebraska. For whatever reason, those who felt so insulted that Taggart hadn’t informed prospective recruits of his intentions to leave had no such reservations regarding Frost.

Herm Edwards

The other new Black coach at a major college will be longtime ESPN commentator and former pro star and player Herm Edwards. He became the new head coach at Arizona State, a move that raised some eyebrows because he hadn’t coached in college since the ‘80s. But Edwards had always said he wanted to get back into coaching, and the new athletic director at Arizona State is his former agent, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise.

It’s also ruffled some feathers that Arizona State has announced that they’re adopting more of an NFL model, with Edwards being viewed as more a CEO than an on-field strategist. Still, no one questions Edwards’ work ethic nor his high energy level or his determination to field a winner. Whether he proves able to recruit players to Arizona State and put together a winning program will be determined in the future.

But whatever the case, the hirings of Taggart and Edwards represent a positive development on the college football scene

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