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London part of watershed season for minority coaches

Mike London's hire has not just drawn the praise of the Virginia's high school coaches, but also another group that was not receiving attention: the Black Coaches Association. London is one of five African American coaches to be hired by a division I-A team this offseason, and one of three to earn a job at the BCS level.

London joins Louisville's Charlie Strong and Kansas's Turner Gill at the BCS level, and Memphis's Larry Porter and Western Kentucky's Willie Taggart at the division I-A level. There is now 13 minority head coaches in division I-A, including 11 who are African American.

"I have to give credit where credit is due. I'm about results," said Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association. "There have been eight appointments, and five have been by coaches of colors. That's progress. I've said all along, we got some catch-up to do, but this year, 2009, this hiring circle, I think is a watershed.

"We're seeing the fruits of the labor. I think it is a combination of a lot of people. It's been a collaborative effort. The BCA certainly has helped this. The NCAA has helped this. I think Tony Dungy and his voice has helped this. I think the successes in the Super Bowl has helped this. I think division I-A athletic directors has helped this. ...There has been a voice and a constant effort to make this change."

Keith compared this year to hitting a rock with a sledgehammer, and that all the factors compounded to make this visible. The progress is especially important on the BCS level, because Keith awaits a minority coach winning the national championship. Randy Shannon was the only minority coach at the BCS level last season, and now there are four.

When the Virginia job opened, Keith immediately thought of London. He knew the credentials were there and saw London as the natural fit. This was a point London emphasized at his news conference -- he did not want to be viewed as the minority candidate, but as the right candidate for the Cavaliers.

"It's a tremendous honor to be, I guess, recognized as one of the very few in this country in a day and age where people are talking about more diversity, in particular BCS schools," London said. "But I always want it to be made known that hire me because I'm the best candidate. That's why I want to be hired because of that.

"I understand the significance of being an African-American or the second [London was the first of the three hired this season] at a BCS school. That's a tremendous honor. And I don't look at it as a burden, because people say, well, you're going to be scrutinized more. When you have seven kids, you're scrutinized all the time because every decision you make is not always popular with them."

Nonetheless, London's hire represents a positive step in improving racial diversity at the head coach level -- and along with the other hires this offseason, helped make considerable strides for Keith's cause.

"It's been a long time," Keith said, "and I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you I'm enjoying it."

By Zach Berman  |  December 14, 2009; 3:41 PM ET
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Tony Dungy + Mike Tomlin = University presidents figuring out, "Hey Black guys can coach too!"

Posted by: hoos3014 | December 14, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

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