Penn State football fans have a big reason to rejoice.
Their new coach, Pennsylvania native James Franklin, brings to Happy Valley a great record. As head coach at Vanderbilt, a perennial doormat in the SEC (the nation’s toughest conference), he led the Commodores to three straight bowl games and a Top 25 ranking.
In the weeks since he was hired to take over the program, Franklin has said and done all the right things, putting together a dynamite staff and pushing for the best recruits to play for the Nittany Lions. The guy has been Mr. Blue and White.
Which is why it was somewhat disheartening to see how much attention is being paid to another color. Same goes for new Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong. Both are black.
That factor played prominently in the news coverage of their hirings. Headlines such as “Penn State And University Of Texas Make History With Black Coach Hires,” and “Historic Black Coach Hires At Texas, Penn State” leave little gray area for any other reason.
Such as merit.
Make no mistake. Both men (Strong came from powerhouse Louisville) had more than enough merit to earn their new positions.
But tragically, too many in America still can’t get over the black-white issue, continuing to inject race. They don’t seem to understand that the only race that matters is the one we all belong to — the human race.
While we just celebrated the accomplishments of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in many respects we continue to lose racial ground. Making the sin mortal is that it’s a choice of our own making. Rather than viewing America through colorblind eyes, we continue to revert to the time when people were judged for one reason: The color of a person’s skin.
Resurrecting such barriers between people, whether by well-intentioned but woefully misguided souls, or by those who have despicably hijacked Dr. King’s legacy for self-promotional and financial reasons, has no place in an America striving to right the wrongs of its past. Opening old wounds serves no purpose other than to foster resentment on all sides.
Both coaches were eminently qualified to lead these storied programs, but their accomplishments became marginalized the second that race became part of the discussion.
Sure, if they had been the first black coaches hired at major football schools, significant media attention would have been warranted as another barrier was taken down. But that milestone was achieved long ago. In fact, the number of black head coaches at the 125 major Division I schools roughly mirrors the percentage of blacks in America.
If there were only three or four minority coaches, you could make an argument that collusion was being used to exclude black coaches. But that is not the case. So when people clamor that the number still isn’t high enough, what should we do? Require a particular percentage? Determined by whom? Should it be five points more than the 13 percent black population in America? Or 10? And what about other races? What should their numbers be?
Will college football head down the racial path that the NFL has chosen with its mandating of the Rooney Rule, where teams are required to interview at least one “minority” candidate when hiring a head coach or general manager? While the intention may be noble, it doesn’t work in real life, especially in modern-day sports.
The NFL doesn’t understand that fans don’t give a damn about skin color, as they are partial only to championship gold. Teams aren’t stupid. They will hire the best and the brightest, regardless of race. So why invent a problem when there isn’t one? College football — and the media — would be smart to put that idea in their playbooks.
Trumpeting color is demeaning to the very people it is designed to “help.” Instead of uniting, it divides. Instead of equality, it promotes the notion of special privilege based on color. Instead of building upon the American spirit of competitiveness and achievement — may the best person win — it robs all candidates, white and black, of dignity and respect.
Franklin, a class act, said it best: “… the most important thing is we’re getting to a point where universities and organizations and corporations are hiring people based on merit and the most qualified guy.”
Too bad former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson has never learned that lesson. According to an Associated Press article, he said it doesn’t make sense that so many players, but so few coaches, are black.
Thompson said, “So (when) you are not in management, you’re still perceived as the one who picks the cotton rather than owns the plantation.”
Are you kidding? What would have happened had the same statement been made by a white? He would have been pillories on the altar of political correctness. But since Thompson’s statement was met by silence from the very media playing up race on other issues, it demonstrates that the double-standard continues.
The battle for civil rights is too often being used to advance personal and political agendas. Sadly, we are coming full circle: separate and unequal; separate but equal; equal; and now separate again. That’s not why so many sacrificed their lives, and it’s certainly not what Dr. King advocated. Instead, he dreamed of a nation where people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Sure, racism still exists, and always will. But so long as we fight it — not promote it — we’re on the side of the angels.
So congratulations to Coach Franklin — and may the only colors that matter be Nittany Lion Blue and White.
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