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Only two black head coaches left in Div. I-A

Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, December 1, 2004

When Irish football coach Tyrone Willingham was hired in 2002, he was the first black head coach in any sport at Notre Dame.

When he was fired Tuesday, he became the third black football coach who had either been fired or resigned from his job this year. Last week, San Jose State’s Fitz Hill resigned, and on Nov. 24, New Mexico State’s Tony Samuel was fired.

There are now only two black head coaches in Division I-A football. For Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association, this trend is disturbing.

“I just hope in some situations we’re not held to a higher standard,” Keith told ESPN Tuesday evening.

Keith also said he was disappointed with Notre Dame’s decision to fire Willingham.

“In three years, I think he has done everything, short of winning a national championship, and I don’t think he inherited national championship talent,” he said.

Keith said he was especially concerned with the Notre Dame situation because of what happened with Willingham’s predecessor, Bob Davie. Davie, who was fired in 2001, compiled a 21-16 record in his first three seasons, but was kept for the duration of his five-year contract. Willingham was fired after three seasons with a record of 21-15 after signing a six-year deal in 2002. He is the first Notre Dame football coach to be fired before the duration of his original contract.

“This sends an alarming message to African-Americans,” Keith said.

Former Irish football player and ESPN Radio personality Mike Golic said the firing of Willingham had nothing to do with race.

“You know what the color of Notre Dame is, is winning … It’s not black or white,” Golic, who played for the Irish from 1981-1984, said on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption Tuesday. “Ty could be yellow. If he was 10-1 or 11-0, he’d still be there coaching right now.”