When Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr announced his retirement last week, fans finally began to talk about all that Carr was besides just a winning coach. Carr was a person who signified the integrity and character for which the University stands. As the search for the next head coach gets underway, University values like diversity and integrity must be the central criteria, because they define the University even more than its tradition of winning.
The University has always advocated and recently stepped up the rhetoric concerning the importance of diversity on campus. But this call for diversity often does not extend to the highest echelons of administration and the Athletic Department. The University of Michigan has never had a black head football coach (or University president for that matter, except Interim President Homer Neal). The University has interviewed defensive coordinator Ron English, who is black, but few believe he is a serious contender. Athletic Director Bill Martin insists that there are other minority candidates under consideration, but he refused to elaborate.
The University does not have to select English, or even another minority candidate, to uphold its value of diversity. But it does have to seriously consider minorities and ensure that it is working to create an environment that ensures there are more viable minority candidates in position to take over at vacant head coaching positions around college football in the future. In a game with such a high percentage of black players, it is an absolute disgrace that there have only ever been 22 black coaches in Division I-A.
Why is it that number so low? It stems from the fact that there are too few minority assistant coaches. The University should do more to promote a diverse culture in its football program, and thus around college football as a whole.
According to rumors, LSU coach and former Michigan assistant coach Les Miles is the frontrunner for the job. While Miles’s 32-6 record with the Tigers makes it clear that he is a winner, there are concerns about the way he runs his programs. His time at Oklahoma State University was marred with suspicions and controversies that we don’t want here at Michigan.
In his last press conference, Carr stressed the need to win – something obviously crucial to an athletic program – but with integrity. This is an important distinction. The University should never tolerate a program or coach that consistently wins but fails to uphold other important values. A good football coach at Michigan must graduate a very high percentage of his players, ensure that they are integrated into the campus community as students and only recruit upstanding individuals that the University will be proud to be represented by. These ideals don’t have to conflict with winning if the University does its homework and hires a coach that understands and appreciates the supreme importance of these values.
Carr proved that there are coaches who can win with integrity, yet even his tenure had its shortcomings. Statistics from the NCAA put the football program’s graduation rate at 73 percent, which is 4 percent lower than the overall Division I graduation rates. As Martin acknowledges, college athletes are students first, and the ability to run a good program that promotes the success of student-athletes on and off the field should be a key criterion in the selection process.
The ability to beat Ohio State and win Rose Bowls is certainly on everyone’s wish list for the next coach. But a lot more is expected of the face of the University than just winning.