The news came too early Sunday morning for most of us to hear about it, not that the firing of Lane Kiffin as football coach at Southern Cal set off any West Coast tremors. What person who follows college football didn’t expect Kiffin, 38, to get canned at season’s end?
But athletic directors don’t fire coaches five games into a college football season. They wait; they show patience; and they hope the coach can pull off a miracle and save what looks like a disaster of a season.
No chance of that with Kiffin, the sorriest, most unlikeable young coach to ever lead three high-profiled program. He had the thinnest resume of any coach at a major school, which is why nobody should have expected the man to keep the Trojans among the elite programs.
Yet I care little about Kiffin and his cold-blooded firing before sunrise. I care a lot, however, about who is likely to replace him. I hold out hope that USC Athletic Director Pat Haden will step outside the West Coast and hire Louisville coach Charlie Strong.
I hope so, because I want dearly for a Black coach to get a program where he can achieve wonderful things – where the man can dare to dream of a national championship.
Not since Notre Dame plucked Tyrone Willingham from Stanford has an elite Division I program put a Black coach in charge. The Irish wronged Willingham, firing him despite his successes.
Maybe someone can argue that Stanford is one of those programs, too. Perhaps it is. Maybe you can argue that Texas A&M is one of those programs as well. It has a Black coach in Kevin Sumlin, a man who’s built a considerable reputation of his own.
Nobody has to wonder what kind of program Southern Cal is. A private school with deep pockets, USC has the pedigree to rival the Notre Dames, the Alabamas and the Ohio States of college football, which means the Trojans should have the pick of the litter in terms of college coaches who have a rock star’s appeal.
Strong should be their No. 1 choice.
What he has done with Louisville is a half-step short of amazing. He took what had been a program without much consistency and made it relevant on the national stage. Strong has the Cardinals ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press polls, and they should inch up throughout the season.
He also has a rifle-arm quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, a brilliant talent who has the look of a Heisman winner.
Having a Heisman candidate to coach shouldn’t be the reason Haden and USC boosters consider Strong, who labored for 27 years as an assistant coach before getting to run his own program. They should consider him because he’s done all that a top-flight candidate can do for the job: He’s won.
Haden, no doubt, can find all sorts of reasons to pick white, but at some point Black coaches and Black athletes need to ask this question: What role can they expect to play for the major college programs beyond what they’re doing on the playing field?
If the answer is nothing, programs like Southern Cal are giving Black athletes all the reason to take their talents elsewhere.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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