Posted on November 2, 2010

Black Coaches? Not in SW Fla.

David Dorsey, News-Press (Fort Myers, Florida), November 2, 2010

There are about 500 African-American high school football players in Lee and Collier counties. They have zero men of their race in varsity head coaching positions.

The thousands before them, who’ve played over the previous 40 years, have had four such role models.

Transforming high school demographics, an estimated 40 percent African-American player base and a flood of prominent black assistant football coaches have hardly changed the demographics of head coaching positions since 1969 and 1994.

Those years stand out for two reasons: Area schools were integrated in ’69; North Fort Myers High School graduate Larry Gary became the area’s first black head varsity football coach in &#146l;94 at Lehigh Senior High School.

Since 1969, there have been 101 varsity head football coaching hires in Lee County. Four times those hires have gone to African-Americans; Gary was hired twice, and counts as two.

Collier County has had 54 hires during that time span. Darryl Bullock, hired in 1995 at Immokalee, is the lone black man to get a job.

In the two counties, the five hires in 155 chances adds up to 3.2 percent.


Holloway [Cape Coral High black wide receiver Prince Holloway] said black coaches are viewed differently from their white counterparts.

“I’m not sure how many black coaches have tried out” for head coaching jobs, Holloway said. “Most don’t want to deal with it.”

By “it,” Holloway meant dealing with the stereotype black coaches coax blacks to pick their school.

Former Cape Coral principal Charles Dailey, who is black and one of four men in Lee County to have hired a black head football coach since integration, said more efforts need to be made to hire qualified black coaches.


“It needs to be culturally diverse to where kids can see minorities in leadership roles, not only for black kids to see African-American or Hispanic coaches, but for white kids to see African-American coaches and white kids to see Hispanic coaches in leadership roles.


Estero High coach Rich Dombroski, who is white and was hired by Principal George Clover in 2008, said black coaches aren’t getting interview opportunities. {snip} remains a goal. New to the area, he has not applied for a top job.


At Lehigh and again as an assistant at Bishop Verot, Gary said he faced a stigma that he recruited players.

Five players transferred from Lehigh to Bishop Verot in 1999 as Gary took a job there. But Gary said players transfer to schools with white coaches in Lee all the time.

Dunbar High School Principal Carl Burnside, who is black, said he guarded against another stereotype. He has hired three head coaches for his school’s football program. All were white.


The NFL has the Rooney Rule, named for Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for every vacant coaching job.

Former Lee County Superintendent James Browder said such a rule would not be viable at the high school level because coaches are usually hired as teachers first. Lee County teachers association president Mark Castellano concurred.

“This is not a business,” Castellano said. “This is an educational situation. As long as they’re not discriminating, I’m not going to have an issue with that.”


The subject continues to be sensitive. The 12 Lee County School District principals who have hired a head football coach were approached for comment on this issue.


Seven agreed to be interviewed. All were posed the same questions:

– When you last hired a football coach, how many men did you interview?

– How many of them were minorities?

– Why do you think that in 41 years, there have been so few black coaches?

Five principals indicated they liked to interview five candidates before making a decision. Of the 25 most recently interviewed varsity football coaching candidates, two were black, said the principals.

“I look at the person, I don’t look at the color,” said South Fort Myers Principal Tommy O’Connell. “I look for the most qualified person that I can.”


“First of all, if you just take the number of the teaching staff and looked at race, I’d bet that 90 percent or 85 percent in high school are white,” said Davis [East Lee Principal Ron Davis].

In the 2009-10 school year, 87.6 percent of Lee County teachers were white, 5.4 percent black and 6.2 percent Hispanic.

Meanwhile, 15.3 percent of students were black.


Troy Davis, the most recently hired black varsity head football coach in the region–by Dailey in 2005 at Cape Coral–coaches postgraduate Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

“I won’t say it’s racist,” Davis said of why more men of his race have not gotten opportunities. “I just think that the athletic directors and the superintendent and principals need to do a better job of finding guys, more than just having the same guys rotating through.”