Running on Empty

The 21st Century began three years ago, but the SEC is just now entering it.

Welcome. You're a little late, but it's good to have you.

Sylvester Croom made his debut Saturday as the head football coach at Mississippi State and as the first black coach in the SEC's 71-year history.

Saturday's game was a big deal. T-shirts that said "Maroon Is All That Matters" were handed out and everything. In this day and age school colors should be all that matters at a football game. Saturday's event is something that should have happened years ago.

But it's not just the SEC that seems to be behind the times a little. Besides Croom, there are only four other black head coaches. Major college football has 117 schools. That means only 2.9 percent of the coaches in college football are black. Not exactly a statistic to brag about.

At least there has been a little bit more opportunity at the lower levels of coaching.

Blacks made up 10 percent of the defensive and offensive coordinators and 20.4 percent of the assistant coaches in 2001.

It seems as though 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement a little more progress would have been made. Something like a black coach being hired should not be such a big deal. It should be something totally normal.

But when it isn't until 2004 that an entire conference sees its first black football coach or until 2001 that a school sees its first black coach in any sport, as Notre Dame did, then it becomes a big deal.

Finding talented black athletes doesn't seem to be a problem. Nearly half — 46.4 percent — of scholarships go to black athletes. Why is it so hard to hire a black coach then?

College basketball is finding and hiring them. Why can't college football? In Division I basketball, 25 percent of head coaches are black, a pretty high number when you compare it to football. Of the 65 teams in the NCAA Tournament last year, 15 of them had black head coaches and all of the four teams in the NIT final did.

Until the other day, I had never given much thought to whether or not there were many black coaches in college sports. Now that I know, I'm rather shocked and appalled. Things are moving in the right direction but a little sluggishly.

It's a shame that it has taken this long, but now is better than 20 years from now.