10 black coaches making strides in College Football
College football is constantly changing.
NIL deals, the transfer portal and the success of black head coaches has raised eyebrows across the sport. Despite having no minority coaches in the SEC, they’re still impacting the FBS in a major way. Some are stockpiling victories at their respective programs, and others have won conference championships.
It’s no mystery the lack of minority head coaches is still an issue in today’s game. However, this article is about empowerment, awareness and recognition in College football, that’s surging towards the norm of the sport. These 10 individuals are inspiring the next generation of black youth, dreaming of one day becoming a head coach, and enduring success in a profession that doesn’t have many people who look like them.
Thomas Hammock, Northern Illinois: In just three seasons on the job, he led the Huskies to their first MAC Title since 2018. Hammock completed one of the best turnarounds in the country. He took a winless team from a year ago, made them conference champions this fall and was named the MAC Coach of the Year for his efforts. Northern Illinois’ nine wins this season, is the most by the program since 2014. Hammock has an opportunity to make it double-digit victories with a win over Coastal Carolina Friday night. Hammock turned quarterback Rocky Lombardi into a winner, after some down years at Michigan State. If the Huskies win nine games again in 2022, Hammock will be a hot commodity.
Jay Norvell, Colorado State: He’s underrated, but led the Nevada to four-straight winning seasons. Norvell has a great offensive mind and he’s a quarterback whisperer. The Wolf Pack’s Carson Wells is No. 6 in the FBS this season, with 4,175 passing yards. He also has 36 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Wells had so much success under Norvell’s watch, that he’s foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Norvell has gone 30-17 over the past four seasons with the Wolf Pack. Accomplishing that at a place like Nevada is clearly remarkable. Norvell is arguably one of the Mountain West’s best coaches. Now he’s going to try and keep that momentum going at Colorado State.
Mel Tucker, Michigan State: For a guy who left Colorado in the middle of the night, he proved his worth and led Michigan State to 10 wins and a New Year’s Six Bowl berth this season. Tucker became the only Michigan State coach to beat rival Michigan back-to-back during his first two years on the job. Not to mention he was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year for his efforts. Kenneth Walker III also won the Doak Walker Award under his watch. Although Tucker’s name popped up in head coaching vacancies, the Spartans rewarded him with a lucrative contract extension. It should keep Tucker in East Lansing for a very long time, which will help the overall credibility of the Big Ten.
Dave Aranda, Baylor: Although he’s not black, Aranda has had a similar coaching journey to other minorities. He led the Bears to a Big 12 Title and New Year’s Six Bowl berth in his second season. He’s one of the fastest-rising coaches in the game. His experience in the Big Ten, Big 12 and the SEC has paved the way for Aranda’s success in such a short period of time. The scary part for the rest of the Big 12, is the fact that Aranda is just scratching the surface. His Bears took the league by storm, with their tenacious defense and bruising rushing attack. When quarterback Gerry Bohanon went down with an injury, backup Blake Shapen stepped in and kept the wheels rolling. That’s good coaching.
Mike Locksley, Maryland: Nick Saban took him under his wing for a few seasons and it’s starting to pay off for Locksley. Maryland is bowl bound for the first time since 2016 because Locksley has become a wiser and smarter coach. The Terrapins are faster, more physical and are developing a winning mentality. That’s what it takes to win in the Big Ten and it’s evident Locksley has successfully adapted. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has nearly 3,600 passing yards, plus 24 touchdowns passes this season. The Terrapins don’t have elite talent, but the players are competitive. Maryland hasn’t won a bowl game since 2010, and a victory over Virginia Tech will help Locksley’s recruiting.
Charles Huff, Marshall: He led the Thundering Herd to seven wins in his first season on the sidelines. Huff’s immediate success with Marshall has led to job offerings from Duke and Virginia Tech, but he turned both down. After all, the Thundering Herd have won five of their last seven contests. Marshall has an opportunity to win a bowl game for the first time since 2018, with a victory over Louisiana Saturday night. Huff’s future with the program looks bright, especially with freshman quarterback Grant Wells orchestrating the offense. Wells is tied for 13th in the FBS with 3,433 passing yards. Not to mention freshman running back Rasheen Ali has 1,241 yards on the ground and 20 rush touchdowns.
Herm Edwards, Arizona State: He’s one of the most respected coaches in the game and the Sun Devils love playing for him. Edwards has yet to suffer a losing season at Arizona State, and has led the program to eight wins in two of the last three years. The Sun Devils closed out the regular season strong, and won three of their final four games. Although recruiting has slipped this year because of an NCAA investigation, Edwards still has the program surging in national credibility. The 67-year old has stockpiled a record of 12-10 in Pac-12 play during his time in Tempe and now has a roster full of players he recruited. With Edwards returning in 2022, the Sun Devils have a chance to take that next step.
Deion Sanders, Jackson State: He’s one of a few coaches who can change a program overnight. Sanders has been successful at basically everything he’s done in his football career, and now that includes coaching. It’s mind-boggling he has Jackson State 11-1 this season, and the program just signed the nation’s top recruit away from his alma mater Florida State. That speaks volumes to the rest of the country that Sanders has the intelligence, swagger and influence to be successful at the Power Five level. Coach Prime also has Jackson State playing in the Celebration Bowl against South Carolina State Saturday night. Rumor has Sanders turned down the TCU job to stay put at Jackson State.
James Franklin, Penn State: He got the Nittany Lions back on the winning track this season. Franklin has done a marvelous job building Penn State back into a respectable powerhouse. The 49-year old has a Big Ten Title under his belt and continues to recruit like a monster. Every year several of his players get drafted to the NFL. Penn State has some of the best talent in the Big Ten. However, a revolving door of assistant coaches has led to some underachieving over the past two years. Not even the USC rumors could stop Penn State from signing Franklin to a 10-year contract extension, with $70 million guaranteed. After all, Franklin won at Vanderbilt, so he’s built for success anywhere.
Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame: He’s the Fighting Irish second-ever black coach, and first since since Tyrone Willingham. College football fanatics thought Matt Campbell would get his dream job after Brian Kelly bolted for LSU, but Notre Dame decided to give its’ 35-year old Defensive Coordinator a shot. After all, Freeman is an elite recruiter and he has great chemistry when it comes to relating to the players. They were all excited about his hiring, and have a ton of momentum heading into the New Year’s Six Bowl game against Oklahoma State. A victory over a talented Pokes squad will do wonders for Freeman. So now it’s time for him to show the country why he was perfect for the job.