Former Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl and is now an accomplished television analyst, author, civic activist and community treasure, is the keynote speaker at the Black Coaches & Administrators' "Images of Excellence Luncheon" today at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor. Dungy, 54, recently took a few minutes with the St. Petersburg Times to talk about some of the issues facing minority coaches.
Can you give us a preview of your speech?
I'm going to talk a little bit about the history of the group and where it's come and what they've done and some of the progress that's been made in minority coaching, in a lot of sports, especially football. But then I'm also going to talk a little bit about what I would hope they would try to do in the future and No. 1 on that list would be continuing to role model for the young athletes that they coach and continue to help groom them into not just being better players but better people.
In football, there has been some progress in hiring minorities this year, but where do you see things overall?
Well, it's gone in cycles. There was a time where, in football, we had coaches leaving the NFL and going to college, minority coaches, because they felt they had a better opportunity to advance. Lately, I'd say in the last 10 years, it's probably gone the other way — people have left the NCAA to go to the NFL. I was concerned about that. But this year, we've made some progress. Some presidents and athletic directors at some of your major schools did exhaustive searches and opened things up and I think that's going to help and hopefully that's the beginning of another trend upward.
Were you worried that some schools, including Florida State, Kentucky, Texas and Maryland, had a coach-in-waiting for football, so there was no exhaustive search for the next head coach?
I don't think there's anything wrong with having a coach-in-waiting specifically. We did it in Indianapolis (with Jim Caldwell taking over) and we had who we felt was the best person for the job. But if the process that led you to the last coach is the same process that led you to the coach before, then the coach-in-waiting is probably going to look the same. That's what has to be overcome, the thought process in the whole things. When Kentucky has a coach-in-waiting and he's an African-American, you can't say that's a good process, and when it's not, it's a bad process. Presidents and athletic directors just have to make sure that they're open-minded to try to get the best person. If you do that, that's all you can ask. That's what the BCA feels and I know that's what I feel. If you're looking for the best person, whether he's on your staff or not, if you're truly looking for the best person, then it'll all work out. If you're saying, "Hey. I don't necessarily want the best person, I want to keep things the way they've been" or you have a certain thing in mind for what this head coach should look like, that's the issue.
Is it worrisome that the NCAA just released a report that showed the hiring of minority administrators is still lagging?
It's the same way in the NFL in a lot of different areas with front office and general managers. There's areas where it just seems like it's hard to get those breakthroughs. That's just a battle we have to keep fighting. You hope to get diversity and inclusion and get the best people at every position all the way up and down the hierarchy, but it's a slow process.
What do you tell young assistant coaches who may be frustrated with the dearth of chances?
The good thing about the business that we're in is you never know when the shot is going to come and all it takes is one person. In my particular case, we had a year in 1993 where we had the No. 1 defense in the NFL and I think there were seven or eight job openings and I didn't get one phone call. Not even to ask about my interest. So you get a little discouraged. You say, "How often is this going to happen where you have a great year and there's this many openings? Maybe it's not going to happen." The year I ended up getting the job in Tampa was the only year we didn't make the playoffs. We didn't have a great year and there were only two openings that year and Jimmy Johnson was definitely taking one and Steve Spurrier was supposed to take the other one. So that was a year you would have said that just by logic and opportunity that probably wasn't going to be the year. And that's the year I ended up getting the Bucs' job, so you can never look at it and say, "Well, I didn't get a chance last year so it's not going to happen." You just have to do the best job you can and let your production speak for itself and then, at some point, you do have to trust the Lord that the right opportunity will come along at the right time.
Did you have a shot at a college head coaching job at any point?
I might have. I had a lot of people ask, but I had never coached in college. I didn't know the college game. I didn't really see myself a college coach. It's something I would have liked to have done because you can have a big impact on the development of young men as a college coach. I thought I was much more qualified to coach in the NFL with my background. It wasn't anything I ever really considered, although I did get some phone calls. I don't know how serious they were, but I did get some calls. I never pursued it.
Is coaching in college something you would consider now?
No. I think I'm beyond the coaching phase of my life now, but it is one thing I say I would have enjoyed; I would have enjoyed coaching the 18- and 19-year-olds.
How closely do you follow college football? I would guess you'll be following Pac-10 football pretty closely this fall with son Eric (from Plant High) going to Oregon.
I will be following the Pac-10 closer than I've ever followed it. I follow college football as a fan. Obviously for 28 years, I followed it as a scout, looking for players, and I had a lot of friends in college coaching. It's a great sport. It's a great atmosphere. I love watching it as a fan, but I definitely will be on the Pac-10 websites a lot more than I used to be, that's for sure.
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347.