Few people in college athletics believe in a second, third, fourth or 9,999th chance more than Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, and the one he granted Steve Sarkisian will be the chance that defines his tenure in Austin.
College ADs, especially in Texas, are measured not by new facilities, and certainly not by graduation rates, but by the success of their football coach.
Sarkisian, 46, may be a terrific coach and he is a part of the Nick Saban coaching tree. However, the fact that he has received a second chance on this scale while other qualified minority candidates in his profession are still begging for a single shot is not only discouraging, but pathetic.
College football remains a sport where the best players are Black, but few are given the chance to become a head coach.
There are 11 Black head coaches, 8.46%, in the FBS’ 130 schools. That figure does not include the three who were fired this season: Lovie Smith at Illinois, Derek Mason at Vanderbilt and Kevin Sumlin at Arizona.
And this where the math does not add: More than 54% of the football players in FBS are Black.
The goal is hire the best candidate, and if Del Conte felt that was the case it’s his decision. He knows this hire is his job.
At some point, however, the continued imbalance of Black players to Black head coaches is not a coincidence.
Sarkisian blew his chance at one of college football’s premier jobs, when in the fall of 2015 he behaved inappropriately at a public function as the head coach of USC. He was fired, apologized and owned all of it.
He later pursued treatment for alcohol abuse.
Talking to people who have worked with Sark’ before, from his days as the head coach at Washington to his brief time at USC, no one has a bad word to say about the guy, including the fact they had no idea he was having issues with alcohol.
Sark’ is hardly the only person in major college athletics who has a bad relationship with booze. Between the hours and the innate dysfunction of the job, those factors lend themselves to overindulging.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Evidence shows that roughly 90 percent of people with alcoholism relapse within four years after completing treatment.”
This does not mean Sark’ is doomed for a humiliating public relapse. It just means that the battle is not easy.
Like anyone who is fighting this disease, or any addiction, you hope Sark’ wins.
Having been hired at Washington, USC and then the Atlanta Falcons and Alabama, he is obviously an impressive guy who both interviews well, and can coach.
“Sark’ has done a marvelous job here. He’s very well organized. He works very well with all the people in the organization, players and coaches alike,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday in a conference call with reporters ahead of next week’s national title game.
“He’s a good play caller on game day. He does a really good job of preparing the players game plan wise for each and every game, and he’s just done a great job.
“He’s been a real asset to our organization, and I think he’ll be very successful as a head coach. And he’s taken over a good program, so it’s going to be challenging for anybody that plays them in the future, I think.”
Hiring a head coach is a flawed process, and you can always find a contradiction or a double standard in nearly every instance.
Sark’s success will ultimately determine CDC’s tenure in Austin, and while his hiring may be good for those who seek second chances, it’s equally discouraging to the aspiring Black coaches looking for just one.