It's that time of year again, when high school seniors start filling out college applications. As the acceptance letters start arriving in mailboxes later this year, many families will be sitting around the dining room table weighing their options. A campus that is urban and bustling or rural and bucolic? Close to home or far away? A big university or a small liberal arts college?
For elite student athletes at the top of their games, the decisions are perhaps even more complicated. These students are selecting not just a school but also a team. They are searching for the right set of coaches who can shape and influence any hope they may have for a future in professional sports.
Tonight, Nightline's Dave Marash will introduce you to Kellen Winslow, Jr., a young man with a bright future in football. As a star high school player, he had a host of the nation's top college football programs vying to dress him in their team uniform.
Kellen Winslow Jr.'s biggest fan is Kellen Winslow Sr., a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of the best tight-ends ever to play the game. Kellen Winslow Sr. has been an outspoken critic of the limited opportunities for African American coaches in football. He had already drawn a spotlight on the issue when he made that subject the focus of his Hall of Fame induction speech. But he brought further attention to it this year when it came time for his son to pick a college. Kellen Winslow Jr. wanted to attend a school that happens to have a white head coach and a mostly white coaching staff. His father, however, had another idea.
Of the 115 college football teams competing in the NCAA Division 1-A, only five will have African American coaches this year. Tonight you will meet the newest. Nightline's Dave Marash will introduce you to Fitzgerald Hill of San Jose State. He was the only African American hired this year for any of the 25 head coaching vacancies. Coach Hill knows that if he can succeed at San Jose State, by winning games and selling tickets, he not only will get to keep his job, but he may create more opportunities for other black coaches in the future. Opportunities that have been slow in coming.
Sara Just is a Senior Producer for Nightline.