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November 12, 2008

SCS.comAnother week of college football in November, another unforeseeable upset. Before delving into that, there's a storm brewing in college football and national television networks are already clamoring for change in November. This time, it's not the BCS! Instead, the mid-season firings of Tyrone Willingham and this week's victim, Ron Prince at Kansas State, have the pundits screaming for blood over the dearth of African-American football coaches in Division I-A again. Why exactly does this problem persist, what can we do about it, and why is this such a big deal? A number of answers sit lurking in the background for us.

Why does the problem persist is the main question on most minds when the seemingly grim statistic is thrown up there that only four black head coaches will be left in 120 programs in 2009. This ignores the fact that it's still really six until the end of the year, and nobody really knows how Clemson, Tennessee, Washington, and others will hire this offseason. It is also deceptive because there are two other minority coaches as well who just don't happen to be African Americans. Nevertheless, the number seems terribly small when compared to a 55% minority student-athlete percentage. Furthermore, demographics studies have shown that about 14% of America is now black, with 33% spread out amongst all minorities. Even going with the demographics, 6 out of 120 is a mere 5%, a far cry from the expected 14%.

Historically, the number of black head coaches has wavered between three and eight total in the past two decades. While a step backwards is not what the football nation should strive for, there will inevitably be give and take in the process of integrating the coaching ranks. The real problem now appears to be at the ground level, not at the top. The number of black assistant coaches must be high enough so that obvious hires such as offensive and defensive coordinators do move into the head coaching positions when they come open. For college football to solve this problem, there needs to be more emphasis on hiring minorities anywhere on the coaching staff. Don't get me wrong, there are qualified candidates out there now moving through the ranks like Ron English. However, the numbers need to rise across the board or no progress will ever be made.

Other than encouraging all universities to consider more minorities at the ground level, there are other paths to consider. The NFL has had a "Rooney Rule" in effect for five years, which requires teams to interview qualified minority candidates for any head coaching opening. While the increase in NFL head coaches who are minorities in the past five years is significant (6% to 22%), many question whether the Rooney Rule had anything to do with it. While this program looks a lot like affirmative action, the mere fact is that the Rooney Rule does not guarantee minority hires. It simply opens up the opportunity, so perhaps a gentleman's agreement among university presidents to enact such a rule would help this integration process along. Other than that, the only other possibility is to continue encouraging black student athletes to consider coaching after their playing days are over. Given the 55% minority rate of players, a program encouraging more coaching careers would certainly close the gap.

Why is this such a big deal? Excellent question. The obvious reason is that the country's eyes are glazed over with true history this week as Barack Obama is our new president-elect, the first minority to do so. Furthermore, the NFL jump in minority coaches is probably shedding even more spotlight on the college coaching ranks. Although I think having a fit in the middle of November about this is premature, perhaps Obama's election is the impetus the sport needs to really take a look at more minority candidates. This by no means says aspiring young white coaches are not entitled to equal opportunities, but there should be plenty of openings with the "win now" mentality of college football for everyone to get a chance. For every Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, and Jim Tressel out there, there's 10 coaches who cycle through programs every 3-5 years. The verdict: not as huge a problem as it is currently made out to be, but progress should be visible in the next decade or something is seriously wrong.

I would be remiss in not covering some on-the-field action. Five of the six undefeated teams remain, as Utah, Alabama, and Texas Tech all lived up to the hype in surviving major tests. Iowa made a ton of people smile after knocking off Penn State though, as the Big Ten is virtually locked out of the national championship this season. They can commisserate with the ACC and Big East, who also have no chance. There's always surprises in November, and this one was just a product of Penn State making a lot of mistakes. Iowa is tough at home, and just good enough to capitalize on the Nittany Lions's mistakes. This does not mean Joe Paterno is a failure, it just means they will have to settle for a Rose Bowl for only the second time in their Big Ten history and the first since 1995. A tough test against co-leader Michigan State remains, but the Nittany Lions still have a ton to play for.

The biggest beneficiary of the Penn State loss might actually be Ohio State. Had PSU went 11-0 and then lost to Michigan State, the three-way tie atop the Big Ten would have been awarded to Michigan State, who has not appeared in a Rose Bowl since 1988. Obviously a one-loss Penn State team would likely be chosen for a second BCS slot thanks to a better record and a win over OSU. This leaves a very solid Ohio State team on the outside looking in. Now the Buckeyes not only are two wins away from a fourth-straight Big Ten title (shared with the MSU-PSU winner), they are virtually guaranteed a BCS slot as long as Oregon State does not win out (which would give the PAC-10 two BCS slots). So congratulations to Iowa, as the Big Ten will benefit from a little parity and avoiding the toughest game of them all this season. Obviously the BCS Projections have changed, leaving PSU out of the championship now and moving Texas Tech into the slot for now. Boise State, West Virginia, and Georgia Tech are out, while Cincinnati, North Carolina, and Utah move into slots in a big movement week.

BCS Projections October 27, 2008
BCS Championship in Miami - Florida vs. Texas Tech
Fiesta Bowl - Texas vs. Ohio State
Sugar Bowl - Alabama vs. Utah
Orange Bowl - North Carolina vs. Cincinnati
Rose Bowl - USC vs. Penn State

After having too many games to choose from for a few weeks, this week it becomes hard to find three top games of the week. We start with a good battle in the MWC as 9-1 BYU travels to play 8-2 Air Force. While each team has lost a conference game, both are still in the hunt for a conference title with the backloaded MWC schedule in November. Air Force has had trouble keeping any one man in the spotlight this season, as there are platoons at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. This give the BYU defense a lot to prepare for. The Falcons also have a stingy defense, but it will be tested by the best offense it has seen all season. Outside of the TCU loss, BYU has been firing on all cylinders offensively, averaging nearly 40 points per game. QB Max Hall is yet another great quarterback in BYU's system, and he should be able to find some weaknesses in the Falcon defense. Both teams have quality special teams units, so the advantage has to go with the team with the only edge, that being BYU on offense. The Cougars set up the massive showdown with Utah by winning this one by 17.

The second game of the week is an ACC showdown between Boston College and Florida State. It's still completely undetermined who exactly will show up in the ACC Championship game, and this game may help clarify that answer. Boston College trails Wake Forest, FSU, and Maryland by a game in the division, but the Eagles have all three left on their schedule and so control their own destiny. Eagles QB Chris Crane has not had a great year, but RB Montel Harris has given him enough support to be effective at times. Florida State has been very solid offensively outside of the Wake Forest loss, but you have to wonder if QB Christian Ponder can keep up his high level of play this season. If there's any indication which way this one will go, it may be the special teams. Graham Gano is nearly perfect for the Seminoles, while BC is barely hitting half of their field goals. This makes the difference on the road for the Eagles, as Florida State wins by 3.

The game of the week is slightly less intringuing than the Nick Saban showdown, but South Carolina visiting Florida is always a fun storyline as Steve Spurrier tries to rekindle some magic in the Swamp. The Gamecocks have an outstanding defense, which stifles lesser opponents and keeps Spurrier in games against better competition. Still, the Gators are outscoring their competition by a 4:1 clip and are playing like a national champion right now. You know the Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin show, but look for WR Louis Murphy to continue tearing up defenses that double-team Harvin. The Gamecocks have issues running the ball and kicking field goals, which is not good going into the Swamp. Spurrier comes up with more great defense to keep it closer than usual for the Gators, but Florida wins by 10.

2008 GOTW Record: 17-16
Last Week: 1-2

Fitz Top 10 - Week 11
1. Texas Tech (10-0)
2. Alabama (10-0)
3. Florida (8-1)
4. Texas (9-1)
5. Oklahoma (9-1)
6. Utah (10-0)
7. USC (8-1)
8. Boise State (9-0)
9. Penn State (9-1)
10. Ohio State (8-2)

Just Missed: Ball State, Missouri, Georgia, Michigan State, BYU

This looks like a poor week of football, but don't be fooled. These weeks are generally when big upsets happen and shockers continue. There will be more Iowa-like upsets, but good luck picking which game it will be. Better sit in front of the TV with the remote ready! Have a good week!

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