Could longtime Gator assistant coach finally be getting his just opportunity?

There are published reports this morning indicating that Charlie Strong, the defensive coordinator for the University of Florida's football team (currently  5th ranked nationally after their loss to Alabama last weekend), will be hired by the University of Louisville to be its next head coach.

Why is this college football news one of my main blog posts this morning?

Because Strong is black, and the NCAA/College football has had a pretty horrific reputation for not hiring qualified blacks to be head coaches in recent years.

It was right around this time a year ago when Strong admitted to the Orlando Sentinel that he believed race was playing a part in the fact that,  as coordinator for one of the top teams in the nation for years, he surprisingly had not been offered a head coaching gig.

Strong, a 48-year-old black man, shook his head affirmatively when an Orlando Sentinel reporter asked him if his interracial marriage was a factor in getting passed over for jobs, including one at a Southern school a few years ago. Strong, whose wife is white, said he heard that too many times for it to be rumor.

"Everybody always said I didn't get that job because my wife is white," Strong said at media day Monday, as the Gators prepare to face Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game. "If you think about it, a coach is standing up there representing the university. If you're not strong enough to look through that [interracial marriage], then you have an issue."

There has been several stories in the mainstream media in recent weeks about the relative dearth of black head coaches in NCAA Division 1 programs.  Currently there are 120 such jobs, with minorities holding only 9 of them.

In fact, just last week, the much respected former head coach of the Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy, called the situation "disgraceful" on the NBC NFL pre-game show, at least in comparison to the NFL.

From the AP story:

Asked whether the situation in the college game represents institutionalized racism, Dungy said, "The numbers would tell you that it is."

After the 2006 season, Dungy recommended then-Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin for the head coaching position at a BCS school. Tomlin didn't get an interview. A month later, the Steelers hired him as their head coach, and within two years he led them to a Super Bowl win.

"That's the difference between the NCAA and the NFL right now," Dungy said.

Dungy met with NCAA officials last month and called on university presidents to reverse the negative trend.  If in fact Charlie Strong is named today at Louisville, perhaps Coach Dungy deserve at least a pat on the back for raising the issue on prime time television?

Dungy is one of just many people who follow college football who have been decrying the lack of opportunities for black coaches, in fact he's simply the latest.

And for years, the same case held true in the National Football League, before what has become known as the "Rooney Rules" took effect in 2003.

Named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner and chairman of the league's diversity committee Dan Rooney, the rule mandates that every NFL team interview at least one minority candidate when a head coaching job becomes vacant.

It's been effective, as the number of black head coaches jumped from 6 per cent to 22 per cent in just three years, and Mike Tomlin of the Steelers last February in Tampa became the second black head coach to win a Super Bowl (behind Dungy).

Of course, as of this writing, Strong hasn't been named the head coach of anything yet - but if he gets it, he'll have deserved it (despite Alabama getting nearly 500 yards of offense against his highly rated defense last weekend!)