Maryland's Michael Locksley forms group for minority football coaches

Disappointed and frustrated by the slow pace of minority hiring in college and professional football, second-year University of Maryland head coach Michael Locksley today will announce the creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.

The nonprofit organization will seek to not only identify and groom coaches of color (male and female) for upward mobility, but also create a candidates list that will be vetted by a board of directors that includes some of the most respected and powerful names in sport.

"When I took the Maryland job last year and looked at the landscape of college football, I thought to myself, There's something missing. I'm on the back nine of my career and the pathway to becoming a head coach is still as difficult as when I got into the business in 1992," the 50-year-old Locksley said by phone Wednesday evening. "I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level."

Currently, there are only three Black head coaches among the NFL's 32 teams and just 14 Black head coaches among college's 130 Football Bowl Subdivision squads. That lack of racial diversity is often attributed to a dearth of qualified minorities "in the pipeline," but Locksley and others are hoping to silence the narrative by providing prospective employers with candidates who've been reviewed by successful individuals who know what quality coaching looks like.

The NCMFC Board of Directors includes:

  • Ozzie Newsome, Hall of Famer on college and pro levels, first Black general manager in the NFL, overseer of two Super Bowl winners in Baltimore.
  • Nick Saban, University of Alabama head coach and six-time national champion.
  • Bill Polian, Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager whose teams participated in five Super Bowls, winning one.
  • Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, two-time Super Bowl participant and XLIII winner.
  • Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII MVP quarterback and Washington Football Team executive.
  • Oliver "Buddy" Pough, South Carolina State head coach.
  • Willie Jeffries, first Black head coach in Division I football at Wichita State.
  • Chris Grier, Miami Dolphins general manager.
  • Debbie Yow, retired basketball coach and pioneering college administrator.
  • Rick Smith, former Houston Texans general manager.
  • Desiree Reed-Francois, UNLV athletic director and first Hispanic female and woman of color to be AD at an FBS school.

"These are all people that have either hired head coaches or coordinators or filled upper-level positions throughout their careers," Locksley said. "They all have been at the top of the mountain, per se, in their respective areas, whether winning Super Bowls or national championships or being pioneers, like Debbie Yow and Willie Jeffries. We want to use their experiences to help us formulate and produce the list of qualified candidates, so when people say there aren't enough minorities to fill the positions that have come open over the years, we're going to produce a list of qualified people that shows there are qualified people. What's needed is opportunities."

The Coalition isn't expected to begin formulating its candidates list for four or five months, according to Locksley, as he wants to allow the foundation to settle beneath everyone's feet. But once the organization has its legs, the hope is to have its powerful allies leverage their media relationships to provide greater exposure for qualified minority candidates.

The seeds of the organization were planted in 2018, when Locksley was offensive coordinator at Alabama. Qualified minority candidates were consistently being passed over -- or overlooked altogether -- for head coach and coordinator positions at the college and pro ranks, so he consulted close friends Pep Hamilton, currently the quarterbacks coach with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Thomas Bundy, a lawyer who was a college teammate. They came up with the idea for a QuarterBlack Symposium, which would bring together minority coaches for networking and shop talk. The event was adopted by the NFL a year later and rebranded the Quarterback Coaching Summit.

The need to do even more hit him shortly after being hired at Maryland. He began reflecting on his coaching journey, which has consumed 28 of his nearly 51 years of life, and found himself disappointed and frustrated at how little progress had been made for coaches of color.

When Locksley was hired by New Mexico in 2009, he was one of four Black head coaches at the Division I-A (now FBS) level. A decade later, he was one of only 13 -- an uptick which seems relatively significant, until you remember there are 130 FBS schools. At that point, he began thinking about creating the NCMFC, a nonprofit he hopes will have an impact on the field and in local communities.

Locksley is aware there are other organizations seeking to advance the cause of minority candidates, such as the Fritz Pollard Alliance, but believes there is room for everyone.

"We welcome partnerships with all the different organizations that are in the business of helping provide avenues and pathways for minority coaches," he said. "Obviously, Fritz Pollard mainly deals with NFL; we're dealing with all levels. We want to help the youth coach who wants to become a high school coach. We want to help the high school coach who wants to become a college coach. And we want to help the college coach who wants to become maybe a coordinator or assistant in the NFL, and NFL assistants and coordinators who want to become head coaches. We're here to help all the different levels of coaches take the next step or be given the tools to take the next step."

Coaches interested in joining can register at NCMFC.com.

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