Maryland Terrapins coach Mike Locksley can remember sitting at the NFL’s Quarterback Coaching Summit in June 2019 at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where leaders from the league’s football operations department and the Black College Football Hall of Fame brought together dozens of people of color with higher coaching aspirations.
Locksley, who had just left his job as Alabama‘s offensive coordinator to come to College Park, was struck by the comments made there by former Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome — the NFL’s first Black GM — who said he didn’t realize “there were this many African Americans coaching quarterbacks.”
It was one of many moments throughout Locksley’s career that helped spur his creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.
Locksley announced the formation of the coalition on Thursday. He said he hopes the organization will help prepare and promote qualified minority coaching candidates to the next step in their careers. The nonprofit organization will create a list of candidates that will be vetted by a powerful board of directors that includes Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Alabama coach Nick Saban and, of course, Newsome.
“I can only speak from my experiences, that it’s just about opportunities, it’s about awareness,” Locksley told ESPN. “You look at the three pillars of our organization: prepare, promote and produce. When you think of preparation, you think of having the tools, and this organization needs to create programming to provide tools for a youth league coach who wants to be a high school coach. … This organization has to provide the tools to help people make these jumps in their career.
“The promote piece is the part that I think has been missing,” he said. “If you want to create change, there’s got to be some promotion of what’s out there.”
According to a news release from Maryland, a study from the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University showed that at least 77% of offensive coordinators hired throughout college football over the past 10 years were white, and out of 130 FBS-eligible schools, only 14 head coaches are minorities.
Locksley said that in the summer of 2018, when he was on Saban’s staff at Alabama, he had a conversation with Pep Hamilton about becoming a head coach. Hamilton was Michigan’s assistant head coach and passing game coordinator at the time. The two coaches noticed the direction for hiring “was the quarterback room,” Locksley said.
“At that time, there weren’t a lot of Black quarterback coaches,” Locksley said. “… He and I came up with the idea of, let’s create kind of an underground railroad system of uniting quarterback coaches and getting together and sharing ideas and helping each other grow as quarterback coaches.”
They created the QuarterBlack Symposium and reached out to the NFL for support, which they received, and it began that summer at Morehouse College before the NFL officially took it over and rebranded it.
When he got to Maryland and took a look around, Locksley said, the number of minority coaches was shrinking.
According to NFL.com, when Locksley was hired by New Mexico in 2009, he was one of four Black head coaches at the FBS level. A decade later, he was one of 13 — in a pool of 130 FBS schools.
Locksley said the coalition allows him to pay forward “the privileges I’ve been granted as the head coach at my dream school, Maryland, while also hopefully leaving a legacy and a pathway of opportunity for the next generation of head coaches to come at all levels.”