The Glass Ceiling of African American Assistant Football Coaches

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African American assistant football coaches in college and the National Football League (NFL) alike face a gauntlet of challenges in their quests to become head coaches. Much of the systematic exclusion of qualified African American head coaching candidates stems from archaic and baseless biases. In 2018, 49.2 percent of college football players at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level – the highest classification of college football – were African American. During that same season, only 37.63% of the assistant coaches, 14.72% of the coordinators, and 8.53% of the head coaches were African American.

NFL officials have begrudgingly recognized this issue and enacted policies to mandate minority interviews and consideration for open roles. However, these policies have been weakened by teams that “game” the system with sham interviews with no serious consideration given to African American candidates.

My original research on 62 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I FBS College football teams showed an undeniable connection between playing quarterback and becoming a head coach. 30.6% of the head coaches in the study played quarterback – an overwhelming majority. It remains to be seen if the unprecedented success of African American quarterbacks in recent NFL seasons will spark a change in the coaching racial landscape for years to come.





Keimach, Eli (2020). The Glass Ceiling of African American Assistant Football Coaches. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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