Valerie Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence and an associate professor of journalism, received a Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities by Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal. The sixth annual awards were presented in a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol. Atlanta, Georgia, on October 3, 2017.(Photo: Sarah E. Freeman,

In 9-Minute Segment: ‘The Process is Broken’

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“Credit NBC for tackling the biggest issue facing the NFL at the moment: the lack of Black head coaches,” Tom Jones wrote Monday for the Poynter Institute. “NBC’s Super Bowl host, Mike Tirico, led a frank and in-depth discussion on the topic.

“That was followed by comments from NBC analyst and former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who is Black. Dungy said, ‘The process is broken right now. For minority hiring, yes, but for coaching in general.’ The segment ran for more than nine minutes — an unusually long time to spend on any one topic even during a five-hour pregame show. But this topic deserves it, and NBC handled it well.”

Separately, President Biden called out the lack of Black head coaches in the NFL in an interview that aired during the Super Bowl, saying that having diverse leaders in the league is a requirement of “generic decency.” NBC News anchor Lester Holt asked Biden whether he thinks the NFL, because of its broad influence, should be held to a higher standard when it comes to diversity issues. “I think it should be held to a reasonable standard,” Biden said.

NBC Sports provided the excerpts below from its show, part of its five-hour Super Bowl LVI Pregame Show on NBC and Peacock, leading into coverage of the Los Angeles Rams-Cincinnati Bengals matchup. The Rams prevailed, 23-20.


Michael Smith: “White people, white owners, white executives, white coaches – they have to take up these conversations, take up this fight, and come up with solutions that they created and that they often benefit from.

“I feel like we’re at Sal’s Famous in Do The Right Thing, asking ‘Why ain’t no Black people on the wall?’ Meanwhile, business just keeps booming. It’s got to be important enough to them to effectuate change. I spoke recently with a current Black offensive assistant coach, who’s got an opportunity for a career-changing promotion with another team, but the team he’s with right now is denying him that move, claiming that it’s a lateral move. Meanwhile, they won’t promote him to that same position within his own organization…

“People say the answer is Black ownership. The league needs Black ownership, sure, but that lets white owners off the hook. White owners just need to hire more Black coaches, it’s really that simple. They have to be accountable and this has to be important enough to them to make this a real change.”

Michael Holley: “I recently had a conversation with Art Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Our conversation reminded me of what the Rooney Rule was intended to be, what the original spirit of it was. Art’s father, Dan, was very passionate about a multi-layered approach to finding a head coach. It went like this: Number one, identify quality coaches of color. Number two, thoroughly and fairly interview them. Three, if you’re going to hire them, and this is where we get tripped up, provide resources and support so they will be successful. None of this one-and-done nonsense. The answers are right there in Pittsburgh.”

Dungy on the Rooney Rule: “It wasn’t just a rule, it was a process, and the process is broken right now. For minority hiring, yes, but for coaching in general…The system is not working. My number one reason why it’s not: the process is rushed. We’re putting everything into a three-week period of time.

“We’re interviewing, we’re trying to make decisions, and that period of time is during the playoffs. It can’t be done right, it can’t be done fairly. My proposal would be stop the process, slow it down. Number one, print a job description just like all corporations do. ‘This is what I’m looking for in a head coach.’ Then number two, have a moratorium on interviews and hiring until after the Super Bowl…Don’t hire until 10 days after the Super Bowl. That will let the owners slow down, gather information, and make better decisions.”

Dungy on the head coach hiring process: “The minority coaches that get interviews invariably are in the playoffs. Last year, Eric Bieniemy did five interviews in three days. I walked through it with Leslie Frazier of the Buffalo Bills this year. Over a weekend, he had an interview with the Bears, an interview with the Giants, and, oh by the way, trying to prepare to stop the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s not fair. They don’t get to show what they’re really all about. They don’t get to be as detailed.”

[DrewBrees: “In my 20 years, I had one Black quarterback coach or offensive coordinator, and of all those (other) quarterback coaches or coordinators, many of them went on to get promotions to becoming coordinators or head coaches in other places. So certainly that was a pipeline and that’s been proven with a lot of the recent head coach hirings’…It’s a very offensive-driven league, they’re looking for guys that can develop quarterbacks, but there hasn’t been a pipeline of Black candidates that have been allowed to be in those positions for elevation. So, I think it would be a great pipeline of progress to have more Black candidates in those positions of coordinator or quarterback coach that would get the opportunity to become head coaches.”

Dungy: “I get so sick of hearing about this pipeline being not there. We didn’t think there were a lot of Black quarterbacks back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They were there, we just didn’t give them an opportunity. I think it’s the same thing with minority coaching now.”

At the Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington in 2016, Valerie Boyd discusses how she came to write what is now considered the definitive biography of Zora Neale Hurston. (Credit: YouTube)

Valerie Boyd, Hurston Biographer, Dies at 58

Valerie Boyd, a journalism professor at the University of Georgia best known for the acclaimed biography “Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston,” died Saturday at age 58, according to reports.

“Val died at Emory University Hospital from the progression of her pancreatic cancer, which she had battled for five years,” her friend Veta Goler messaged Journal-isms on Feb. 15, referring to the Atlanta facility specializing in the care of acutely ill adults. 

When “Wrapped in Rainbows” was released, the Georgia Center for the Book included it in a list of “25 books that all Georgians should read.” Her following, however, went beyond the Peachtree state, particularly among Hurston fans everywhere.

A former arts editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Valerie was the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence and directed the Giving Voice to the Voiceless grant program created by Hunter-Gault and her husband, Ron Gault,” Sarah E. Freeman, director of communications for Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, told Journal-isms on Monday.

 “We are devastated to lose a friend and colleague who contributed so much to educating and encouraging future journalists and nonfiction writers.

“One of her lasting legacies at Grady College will be the low-residency Master of Fine Arts program in Narrative Nonfiction, which she envisioned for several years before it became a reality in 2015. The Narrative Nonfiction program, which she directed, is one of two tracks in the MFA Narrative Media Writing program, which also includes a screenwriting discipline.”

Washington Post reporter Darryl Fears wrote on Facebook that in Atlanta, “I watched as she almost single-handedly produced and published two Black magazines, HealthQuest and Eight Rock, a remarkable achievement in the early 1990s. . . . ”  Boyd was working at the AJC while producing both magazines, he said.

The Indigo Arts Alliance noted that Boyd was a winner of the Southern Book Award and the American Library Association’s Notable Book Award and had “written articles, essays and reviews for such publications as The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Oxford American, Paste, Ms., Essence, and Atlanta Magazine. She was curating and editing a collection of Alice Walker’s personal journals, which span more than 50 years.”

Hunter-Gault said, “What made Valerie ’s light shine so bright without being blinding was her always calm demeanor, and her unhurried, thoughtful responses to sometimes difficult questions.  It is my fervent hope that one (or many) of those who benefitted from Valerie’s teaching will one day follow in both Valerie and Zora’s footsteps and as Valerie quoted Zora…’“ ‘be brave enough to undertake’ a detailed account of her journey.” [