By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
After his conference postponed its fall sports schedule – including football until next spring – University of Maryland (UMD) head coach Mike Locksley quickly filled the free time on his hands. The first African American full-time head football coach in UMD history launched the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches (NCMFC) on August 13.
Locksley formed the NCMFC as an effort to increase opportunities for Black coaches to advance into head coach and lucrative coordinator jobs in professional and college football. His non-profit organization hopes to “remove roadblocks, increase awareness and spur action toward fair and equitable hiring at all levels of football,” according to his announcement.
Despite Locksley’s personal success, he remains vigilant in trying to increase opportunities for the next generation of minority coaches to get their shot at leading programs. His career has been marked by overcoming challenges to develop his professional resume, which includes head coaching jobs at the University of New Mexico before replacing Randy Edsall as the interim coach in 2015 when he was fired in College Park.
“When I took the Maryland job last year and looked at the landscape of college football, I thought to myself, there’s something missing. I’m on the back nine of my career and the pathway to becoming a head coach is still as difficult as when I got into the business in 1992,” said Locksley. “I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level.”
Traditionally, many excuses have prohibited Black and other minority coaches from reaching the peak of the profession. For decades, minorities have found it difficult to crack the inner circles of becoming elite candidates before college athletic directors and NFL front office executives to offset nepotism, which has seen their White counterparts given multiple chances after previously underachieving tenures. NCMFC plans to develop a list of coaching candidates who deserve the chance to interview for vacant jobs.
“All we want is a chance to succeed or fail- based on the merits and our God-given abilities,” Locksley said. “Many of us are denied that chance despite our qualifications.”
Locksley hopes the NCMFC education and professional development will improve their coaching acumen, while increasing their visibility before decision makers. The coalition’s networking opportunities are designed to refine, develop and promote those coaches who are ready to become candidates for future jobs by preparing for an often skewed interview process.
“I worked hard to create opportunities in my career, sometimes with assistance from others, but more often through my own perseverance. I have learned many things,” Locksley said. “I have benefited from those who have gone before me so I feel a sense of obligation to help others.”
The NCFMC Board of Directors features a group of legendary figures in professional and college football. Former Baltimore Ravens vice president Ozzie Newsome and Super Bowl winning quarterback Doug Williams are joined by Locksley’s former boss Nick Saban along with Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian.