Lane Kiffin and Deion Sanders.
Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images (left), Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images (right)

Lane Kiffin Calls Out SEC, Big 12 For Lack of Minority Coaches

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin called out the SEC and Big 12 for having zero minority head coaches. That's not correct, but his point was made.

On Saturday, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin stepped aside and let wide receivers coach Derrick Nix, who is Black, serve as head coach of the Rebels during a scrimmage.

Kiffin then explained to reporters his reasoning behind the decision, saying it was a way to give a person of color an opportunity to showcase his coaching abilities rather than a "PR thing."


"There's more Tony Dungys, there's more Lovie Smiths, there's more Mike Tomlins that never get the opportunity. It hit me when I was discussing this, that, you look around and here's the SEC, here's a couple schools coming in from the Big 12 and ... in 2023, between SEC and Big 12, we have no minority head coaches. That's really unfortunate, and not that I'm going to be able to change that. But it gives you the opportunity to speak in front of the team, handle media, handle pregame ... manage the kind of scrimmage, which is like a mock game that way, I think was really good for him," Kiffin said.

"You can't see how good somebody is until they get a chance to do it. That would be my wish out there to ADs and presidents and universities to understand that, and this is a good example."

Kiffin is Right About College Football's Lack of Black Head Coaches

Photo by Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Kiffin then used opportunity to call out the SEC and Big 12 for a lack of minority head coaches, which is incorrect. The presence of coaches including Baylor's Dave Aranda, BYU's Kalani Sitake and Mississippi State's Zach Arnett directly contradicts what he said.

We can assume Kiffin likely meant a lack of Black head coaches, as evidenced by what he said later in his statement.

"I just hope coaches like coach Nix in this profession — Black coaches that don't get opportunities — start getting opportunities, because it is ridiculous, when we're talking about two major conferences right here in this area, and when whatever it is, 80% of our players are minority but we have all white coaches. It's really a system that needs to be fixed," he said.

According to a U.S. News & World Report finding, there are just 14 Black head coaches of the 133 Football Bowl Subdivision teams for the 2023 college football season. That's roughly 10.5% of all head coaches and a decline from 15 a season ago. This is despite the fact that more than 50% of college football players identify as Black.

The SEC and Big 12 both have zero Black head coaches.

While Colorado's Deion Sanders is the most notable Black head coach, the Big Ten claims the most Black head coaches among Power Five conferences, with Purdue's Ryan Walters, Michigan State's Mel Tucker, Penn State's James Franklin and Maryland's Mike Locksley.

They're followed by the ACC with Syracuse's Dino Babers and Virginia's Tony Elliott. Marcus Freeman also leads Notre Dame, which is an independent school.

The SEC doesn't have a terrific history of Black head coaches. In the 90 years of the conference's existence, only five of them have taken the field. They are:

  • Vanderbilt's Derek Mason, who was fired after the 2020 season and was the last Black head coach in the SEC.
  • Vanderbilt's James Franklin, who jumped to Penn State in 2014.
  • Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, who became the SEC's first Black coach in 2004.
  • Kentucky's Joker Phillips, who led the team from 2010-12.
  • Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, who posted a 51-26 record across six seasons and won two New Year's Six bowl games.

Even SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey spoke about the conference's lack of Black head coaches earlier in April.

"We have had times where three of our 14 at the highest level were from under-represented groups, African-American, in football coaches," Sankey said. "We have one now of Hispanic background and no African-American head football coaches. That speaks to the campus decision-makers. We have expectations about communication and consideration of a diverse candidate pool. That happens, but eventually those decisions have to be made. It's a source of attention."

What Kiffin said might have been a little off, but his point was made: There simply aren't enough Black head coaches in college football. And it's not because they're not good enough or aren't qualified. It's because they don't get enough opportunities, such as the one Kiffin gave Nix.

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