BLACK HIRES IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL LEADERSHIP
In 1981, Dennis Green became the first Black head coach of a Power 5 football program (Northwestern). Two years earlier, Willie Jeffries broke the same ground in Division I-A (now FBS) at Wichita State.
Green and Jeffries were pioneers in a sport where Black men had increased representation on the field but not the sideline. But four decades after Green's hiring, college football's leadership remains disproportionately white, despite recent diversity initiatives. Since 1981, only 39 Black coaches and 29 Black athletic directors have been hired, slightly less than 10% of hires for each position. Only 30 of 65 power programs have hired a Black coach; 20 have hired a Black AD.
ESPN examined the hiring of Black leaders at every Power 5 football program (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, plus Notre Dame), spotlighting four positions: Head coach, athletic director, and offensive and defensive coordinator, the jobs most likely to produce head coaches. Only those who had primary coordinator titles (sole or shared) were included; interims were not. ESPN sent data to the schools for verification.
Totals by year
ESPN sought to put four decades of hiring practices into context, as some schools frequently had opportunities to appoint Black coaches and administrators, while others rarely had jobs open. For example, Kansas has had 50 total changes (head coach, coordinators, athletic director) since 1981, while Iowa has had only 11 total changes.
All top leadership hires
Here are all combined Power 5 head coach and athletic director hires by year, with all races, 1981-2021.
Black hires are in blue, all other hires are in gray. Although Black hires have increased since 2000, there have been years, most recently 2015, in which no Black coaches or ADs were hired.
Only three Black head coaches were hired between 1981-1993. Two were at the same school (Northwestern), and Dennis Green was hired at two schools (Northwestern, Stanford).
Since Arizona State's hire of Charles Harris in 1985, only 19 other programs have hired Black ADs. Between 1985 and 2014, there were only two years featuring multiple Black AD hires.
Totals by school
ESPN tracked the year-to-year hiring trends of Black leaders in college football since 1981. Despite initial breakthroughs in the 1980s, hiring for both top jobs has yet to experience a sustained surge. There has been a moderate increase in Black hires since 2010.
No Black head coaches
35 Just over half of Power 5 programs have never hired a Black head coach, including none of the past four to win national titles (Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Ohio State).
No Black athletic directors
45 More than 69% of Power 5 programs have never been led by a Black AD, including nine in the Big 12 and 11 in the SEC.
No Black HCs or ADs
24 Of the 65 Power 5 programs, 24 (36.9%) have never hired a Black head coach or athletic director.
Back-to-back Black head coaches
4 Only four programs -- Northwestern, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Colorado -- have hired back-to-back Black head coaches.
ranking BLACK HIRES IN THE POWER 5
To create a Power 5 ranking, we compiled the percentage of Black hires combined between head coach and athletic director in the past four decades. Click on each school to view more details about their hiring.
Percentage of Black head coach/athletic director hires
The ACC (not including Notre Dame) has eight programs that have hired a Black offensive and defensive coordinator, the second-most behind the Big Ten (nine schools).
The 10-team Big 12 has had the fewest Black head coach (5) and athletic director (1) hires, but three schools have hired Black head coaches, offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators (Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas).
The Big Ten featured the first two Black head coaches in the Power 5 (both at Northwestern), but none were hired between 1986 (Francis Peay) and December 1999 (Bobby Williams, Michigan State).
The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 league with more than 10 Black head coach hires, including three at both Stanford and Colorado, and two at Washington.
The SEC has had the most Black defensive coordinator hires (30, including five at South Carolina, and four at Florida and Missouri) of any Power 5 league, but only five Black head coaches.
Written by Adam Rittenberg. Additional reporting by Andrea Adelson, Kyle Bonagura, David M. Hale and Alex Scarborough. Editing by Glenn Yoder.
Produced by ESPN Creative Studio: Heather Donahue, Karen Frank, Jarret Gabel, Lori Higginbotham, Luke Knox and Kristine LaManna.
Illustrations by Elias Stein. Photographs by AP Photo, Getty Images, USA TODAY and courtesy respective colleges.