Thursday, November 1, 2012

College football's color barrier

It's not the best kept secret around the southeast that Charlie Strong never emerged as a head coach all those years because of his skin color, and perhaps more importantly his wife's skin color. As ugly as the truth is, a mixed racial couple is too big of an obstacle for many college football boosters. Especially in the South. And the fact that it isn't a well kept secret is part of the reason this piece by Mike Bianchi falls a little flat for me. 
Croom, breaking barriers in 2003 in Starkville MS (via)
[Strong] was interviewed by the athletic director at a downtrodden program in a big-time southern BCS conference. He didn't get the job, he was told later, because he was a black man married to a white woman. Sadly and senselessly, an interracial marriage cost Strong a chance to become a head coach and cost that school and its fans a chance to hire a man who could have transformed their woebegone program.
(woebegone = Vandy, btw)

Bianchi goes on to raised volumes of inherent racism and color barriers. Good and decent stuff, especially for those with more than a decent understanding of humanity and at least a third grade education. When asked about the issue directly years ago Strong challenged the writers in the room:
"You guys have been reporting as long as I've been coaching," Strong said. "You know the issue. So you all just write about it instead of asking me. You all know the answer."
A resounding "YES" was the answer then, is the answer now but hopefully won't be the answer for much longer. In fact, maybe Strong himself can be college football's Great Black Hope — the man who finally helps eradicate the lingering stigma that often still surrounds black head coaches in college football.
True words and dramatically writtern. But truly the entire piece just scratches the surface. It doesn't reach the depths of the issue, the pain and suffering that ESPN's SEC Storied does in "Croom". I hope you've had a chance to watch it. While Bianchi appears to give it lip service, the documentary of one of the SEC's greatest players and coaches paints the full ugly picture against the backdrop of an exemplary man and an excellent football coach.

Here's the trailer. Check your tv listings to see when it will be replayed. Where the writing falls short, the video is both compelling and gripping.