It’s on now! Finally, Charles Barkley, an 11-time NBA All-Star, two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner, and a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, who is a renowned worldwide sports figure and celebrity, has joined the fight and campaign to increase the awareness of the embarrassing lack of AFRICAN-AMERICAN HEAD FOOTBALL COACHES at predominantly white collegiate institutions’ fielding teams.

The numbers reflect the issue at all member NCAA institutions and especially at the so-called major college level in football, where the big dogs, including the SEC (Southeastern Conference), the Big 10, the PAC 10 (Pacific Athletic Conference) and the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), have forever excluded coaches of color seeking to elevate themselves as head coaches. This season, Turner Gill (Buffalo), Sylvester Croome (Mississippi State),who recently resigned, Ty Willingham (Washington), who was released after unsuccessful stints at Stanford and Washington, Randy Shannon (Miami) and Bobby Williams (Michigan State) were the only African-American head coaches on the sidelines at football bowl series teams. Barkley, a three-year all-American at Auburn, spoke out against his old school when they hired Gene Chizik, who had been 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State, to replace Tommy Tuburville, who had coached Auburn to six straight wins over Alabama before resigning under pressure after losing to Alabama this year.

“I think race was the number one factor,” Barkley bitterly told the Associated Press. “Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst resume,” said Charles, who pushed hard for Turner Gill to get the Auburn job.

This was not the first time “Sir Charles” got involved with Auburn University administrators. Some years ago, Charles, very quietly was asked to serve on a search committee when the school was seeking a basketball coach. Barkley told Auburn officials he would only serve if they hired a Black coach. At the time, Mike Davis, who had left Indiana, Jeff Capel, who was at Virginia Commonwealth, and Mike Anderson, now at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, were possible candidates. The school hired Jeff Lebo, who is now in his fifth season with a 61-68 won-lost record. Many alumni and fans at Auburn are apparently furious with the hiring of Chizik. But without a pipeline that exists for white coaches (influential alumni and generous donors) to these major football power schools, African-American coaches do not stand a chance of landing jobs at football schools like Auburn.

The worst oversight is the lack of respect for Black college football coaches. Legendary coaches Eddie Robinson (Grambling) and Jake Gaither (Florida A&M) never got a call from a major white school. Together, they sent over 300 players to the NFL. Billy Joe (Cheyney State, Central State, Florida A&M and now at Miles College), Rick Comegy (Jackson State), and Joe Taylor (now at FAMU after a record-setting career at Hampton University) are not even in the game for jobs at BCS teams. Of the top 10 coaches in Division 1-AA victories, African-American coaches and the late Eddie Robinson stands first with 408 wins, followed by Billy Joe (fourth), Joe Taylor (sixth) and Bill Hayes (seventh). So thanks to Charles Barkley, whose influential voice may help to open some doors.