Nepotism, an obstacle to diversity in coaching
Being a great college football coach is as much a lifestyle as it is a career.
Long hours. Rare days off. It’s a job that can take those who do it away from their families, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that coaches try to create space at work for loved ones.
The propensity to follow in dad’s footsteps is common throughout sport, but it has also helped perpetuate a lack of racial and ethnic diversity at the highest levels of coaching in college football.
The Associated Press reviewed the coaching rosters of the 65 schools that participate in Power Five conferences and found 25 instances of family members being on the same coaching staff.
Of those, 22 white coaches involved, including in Iowa where coach Kirk Ferentz’s son Brian is the offensive coordinator. It also includes Purdue, where coach Jeff Brohm has brothers as offensive coordinator and chief of staff.
“The football industry that we’re in is so different from the business,” said Maryland coach Mike Locksley, who is black. “It’s corporate, but it’s very family-oriented. He crosses the line. Usually when you work somewhere, you come home and it’s done. This private life, professional life is so intertwined in football and even in its hiring practices when you see the number of hires by nepotism and affiliations. Family trees, per se.
Nepotism is a big factor in why black coaches are underrepresented in major college football, according to the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches, which Locksley founded in 2020 to groom and champion minority coaches at all levels. soccer.
“I don’t think anyone can argue that,” said lawyer Raj Kudchadkar, the group’s chief executive. “We can invest our resources in developing minority coaches, but if key decision makers are committed to hiring family members, all the training and advocacy in the world won’t get that job to one of my members.”
According to the latest data compiled by the NCAA, 79% of head coaches at Power Five conference schools during the 2020 football season were white, 15% were black, and the rest were from other minority groups. Their teams were made up of 45% black players, 37% white, and 18% from other groups.
Coaches tend to carefully craft and protect the culture of their programs, so they are likely to hire people they know and trust. And who can you trust more than a family member?
All three of Ferentz’s sons played football in Iowa. When Brian finished playing and expressed interest in coaching, his father’s advice was to leave Iowa City.
Brian Ferentz began his career as an offensive quality control/scouting assistant for the New England Patriots; Kirk Ferentz had worked as an assistant to Patriots coach Bill Belichick in Cleveland in the mid-1990s.
Brian Ferentz rose through the ranks to tight ends coach with New England in 2011, and when his father had an opening at offensive line coach in 2012, he returned to Iowa.
The hiring came under scrutiny because it appeared to violate school policy that discourages nepotism. A plan was approved by school officials to have athletic director Gary Barta assess Brian Ferentz’s performance; Barta said back then that it was his decision to sign youngster Ferentz.
“Why wouldn’t a head coach try to get the best assistant possible?” asked Kirk Ferentz, whose 110 Big Ten wins over a 24-year career rank fourth in league history. “We all understand the economy and how it works, how the world works. But more importantly, we all want to be successful, to have good teams. I don’t think there is anything more important than hiring your staff.
Half of Kirk Ferentz’s assistant coaches this season are former Iowa football players. Other than Brian Ferentz, the other former Hawkeyes on staff are black.
“It’s another form of nepotism, I guess,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I know their DNA, if you will, having participated in the program.”
Colorado State quarterbacks coach Matt Mumme didn’t want a career in coaching when he was done playing college football for his dad. But Hal Mumme lured his son into the business when he became head coach of Southeast Louisiana in 2003. Hal Mumme’s previous stoppage at Kentucky ended in turmoil and NCAA violations .
“After the Kentucky story, he was like, ‘I just have to make sure I have people who are loyal to me. That supports me when I have to do other things,'” Matt Mumme said.
Mumme, 47, said Louisiana nepotism rules prevented his father from hiring him as a full-time coach. So he worked there for free, then followed Hal to the state of New Mexico.
Shane Beamer of South Carolina is among 21 Power Five head coaches whose father coached football at the high school, college or professional level. Others include Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Lane Kiffin of Mississippi, according to AP research. Only one of those 21, Stanford’s David Shaw, is black.
When Beamer decided to become a coach, he was determined to do so without the help of his Hall of Fame father, Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. He said he sent dozens of letters to programs across the country trying to land a graduate assistant position.
The graduate assistant is a coveted entry-level position in coaching, especially in larger programs. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano’s son Joe is a graduate assistant for the Scarlet Knights; Kansas State coach Chris Klieman’s son, Deven, is a Wildcats graduate assistant; and Indiana coach Tom Allen hired his son, Thomas, as GM.
Shane Beamer landed his first graduate assistant job in 2000 at Georgia Tech, where the then athletic director and offensive coordinator had previously worked with his father.
“I am not naive. I get it,” Shane Beamer said. “So that definitely helped me get my foot in the door. But at the end of the day, you have to be able to sustain yourself in the profession.
Locksley and Kudchadkar are quick to point out that just because someone is a coach’s son doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a job.
“You can’t blame the coaches who profit from nepotism. But what I always say is along the same lines, we can’t ignore the problem and just say that’s what it is, can we? said Kutchadkar. “Many schools already have rules that deal with nepotism. We just need more schools to fix it.
Locksley said he tried to convince his son, Kai, who played quarterback in UTEP and is with the CFL’s Edmonton Elks, to pursue a coaching career.
“When I told him about it, he was like, ‘No, I want to see my kids grow up,'” Locksley said.
For children of coaches who are exposed to the game and lifestyle at a young age, the experience can be invaluable preparation for a career.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s negative that these guys grow up in the profession and they grow up on these training grounds and become coaches,” Locksley said. “Now the problem is – because we don’t have the minority numbers – you don’t see it very often with us.”