Monday, December 14, 2009


“As a black member of the media, I know what I’m expected to do today — shout that Gill’s hiring as Kansas’ new football coach is a bold step for college football mankind, a terrific hire by Lew Perkins and the culmination of Martin Luther King’s dream.” – Jason Whitlock

I just finished reading Jason Whitlock’s column in the Kansas City Star concerning the recent hiring of Turner Gill as the new head football coach at the University of Kansas. Many of you might know Mr. Whitlock as the controversial sports writer who has weighed in on some very controversial topics such as the Jena 6, the Don Imus affair, and the Mark Mangino firing. I wrote a diary concerning Mr. Whitlock’s Jena article and thought that he had reached his lowest point as a journalist. However, his column concerning the hiring of Coach Gill I think has taken him to a new all time low.

Mr. Whitlock is entitled to his opinion as to the qualifications of Coach Gill, but as his quote demonstrates Mr. Whitlock has decided to forego journalistic integrity for the sudden fame he has received as the Morton Downey Jr. of sportswriters. He begins his article looking for controversy and a fight and if one isn’t present he wants to create one. My guess is that Mr. Whitlock has witnessed the rise to fame of another former radio sports personality Rush Limbaugh and has decided that controversy can also be his ticket to fame and fortune. The only problem with controversy is that it is a double-edged sword and certainly in today’s newstainment market controversy does sell and gets you page hits but it also comes with polarization. Mr. Whitlock after beginning his column with the decision that he wants to be controversial goes on to state that Coach Gill has had a lackluster career at the University of Buffalo where he was the head coach. Based on Mr. Whitlock’s analysis one could conclude that Coach Gill’s hiring is another example of affirmative action going haywire.

As a former student at KU when I heard the news of Coach Gill’s hiring I was excited for two reasons. The first is that I think Turner Gill is a rising coaching talent he took a program that hadn’t won in 10 years and made them respectable, even defeating Mr. Whitlock’s vaulted Ball State undefeated squad in 2008. The second reason to be honest was that my school had hired a black coach for a BCS school. For those who are not familiar with the pathetic hiring record of college minority football coaches; there are 121 division I schools and out of those schools only four of them have black coaches. Now black kids make up 50% of kids playing college football and yet only four black men are qualified enough to coach them? For the sake of black folks everywhere I hope this is not true.

The problem I have with Mr. Whitlock and other black men like him is that they show a certain ambivalence towards their own racial identity. They are willing to accept the benefits of being black but are not willing to accept that there are disadvantages for other people who are black. These are the men who take, “you are not like those other black folks” as a complement, not realizing that it is in fact an insult. Mr. Whitlock is fond of mentioning all of his rapper friends and his “street cred” but he has no trouble throwing other black folks under the bus for the sake of his pursuit of controversy. While there is a lot of internal work that black folks need to do to overcome their continuing to undermine the opportunities that we receive, but a crucial component of this work is to have symbols of success that they can look to for inspiration. Whether it is a black president or a black head coach it is something to take pride in and a goal to strive for. God knows we need all the positive role models we can get. One of the major challenges for black folks especially for those living in our crumbling inner cities is the lost of successful role models due to integration and the desire of some to believe that I got mine and the hell with those left behind.

Is Coach Gill going to be the next great coaching phenom? I don’t know, but what I do know is that he deserves a chance. The problem with Mr. Whitlock and blacks like him is when white coaches or white folks fail they don’t question the ability of white folks to continue to have opportunities presented to them. My question is since Coach Weis failed at Notre Dame why is Mr. Whitlock not calling for no more white coaches at Notre Dame? It is hard enough for black coaches to get shots in NCAA football the last thing they need is another black man questioning their abilities to coach.

Ability is of little account without opportunity. - Napoleon

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