win. And I think in many people’s minds a coach has to look a certain way,” Dungy says.
It seems he was right. Even when many in the NFL felt Dungy was ready to take over the reins as a head coach, the doors remained closed. Indeed, in 1994, when seven head coaching jobs opened up, Dungy was only granted an interview with one team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. And it wasn’t as if he didn’t have the résumé for the job. His work with the defensive units at clubs such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings had produced winning teams. And never mind that under Dungy’s tutelage, the Vikings boasted the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense from 1992 to 1995.
Fast forward to 1996. When a head coaching vacancy came up at the Buccaneers, Dungy’s time had finally come. At age 40, Dungy became the fourth African American head coach in the almost 80-year history of the NFL.
In his first two years he took the Buccaneers to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1982. Most would say he’s earned his contract, a reported six-year deal which pays $1.3 million annually.
“Because there have been so few of us in this position, there’s just a little more sense of urgency to succeed,” Dungy says. “Just the fact that if you don’t do a good job there’s going to be one more step backward in terms of getting more people here and by the same token if you do a good job then that will force people to start considering everybody.”
Kevin Matthews, director of the Sports CAP Program at Northeastern University, isn’t quite as optimistic. “We weren’t at all surprised at the findings in the three major sports, because it was the ninth year that the report was published and we’ve been finding these numbers to be fairly consistent,” he says. “In fact, the numbers in some categories for blac
ks have been slowly dropping off. I think, for instance, we may have hit a peak in black participation on the coaching field.”
THE GRASS IS GREENER
You’d think after so many years of waiting for a head coaching spot, Green would have been content to sit back and not ruffle any feathers. Instead, he did just the opposite. His verve and tenacity often caused friction between himself and the often volatile former 10-member ownership group of the Minnesota Vikings. At one point, Green even threatened to sue some of the owners, if they didn’t sell him controlling interest in the team. Despite the tumultuous environment in the Vikings front office, Gilliam and Green managed to stop that turmoil from seeping into the team and onto the field.
Now the Vikings are under the new ownership of Red McCombs, who purchased the team for $206 million last year. And Green says he now has the support from the front office that he has long sought. And the payoff has been big. McCombs was so impressed by Green’s leadership that he gave Green