Willingham first became Stanford’s head coach in 1995, but he said the inequality is not something he’s discussed for only the past 10 years. “We’ve been talking about this for 300 years,” Willingham said. “If you go back to origin of our country and talk about slavery coming forward. “It’s no different than some of the religious battles other groups have had to fight. There will always be many different battles, and this is one of those. Does that make it right? No, but it’s something that’s out there and you have to fight through it.” They would just like to coach, however unrealistic that is. Just get their programs when they want them to be, teach their players to be good young men, to be the best football players they can be, to help them graduate. There were hired to lead programs, not movements. “It is what it is,” Dorrell said. “Whatever perception it’s made to be, it has to be. I know I’m not carrying any other flag but UCLA’s flag. I’m trying to build this program to the stature it’s capable of being. That’s my goal. It’s not that I’m concerned about anything other than accomplishing what I need to here. “Now if a byproduct happens because I’m black and having success and it gives other people opportunities to do those things, then great.” Black head football coaches have met precious few times in the college ranks. “Well, that probably hasn’t happened as much as two white coaches,” Dorrell said. According to statistics provided by the NCAA, Saturday will mark the 12th meeting of Division 1-A programs led by two African-American head coaches. Willingham will have been involved in three of them, coaching Stanford against San Jose State and Fritz Hill in 2001 and Notre Dame against Michigan State and Bobby Williams in 2002. Now he’ll be part of a little Pac-10 history, however belated. “I think anytime you have firsts, it’s always significant,” Willingham said. “But it does point, hopefully, to a problem we will be curing at some point. That you’ll be able to see a day when it’s more based on their abilities.” There has been more tangible progress for blacks elsewhere. There are currently six head black coaches in the NFL. Yet in the collegiate ranks, an unseen, shameful barrier remains. The NFL requires that minorities are interviewed for head-coaching positions. Willingham is not enthralled with the prospect of requiring that NCAA schools follow suit. “I don’t think you accomplish anything necessarily with legislation,” he said. “A forced move on people’s part usually doesn’t work well. When we have taxation forced on us, most of us want to rebel to some degree. “The thing is we just have to have an open mind about letting the best man be able to do the job. If the best man happens to be an African-American, it should be a joy for us to have him involved in the system. If the best man is not an African-American, it should be a joy to have that individual in the system. It’s just giving the best man an opportunity.” So simple in theory, so agonizingly slow and difficult to execute. Dorrell and Willingham know each other, but are not particularly close. Dorrell said while coaching receivers for the Denver Broncos he wrote Willingham to congratulate him for his first-season success at Notre Dame; Willingham wrote back. “I have a great deal of respect for him,” Dorrell said. Now they will meet for the first time as head coaches. Maybe some day it won’t be noteworthy that they’re both black. Regrettably, in 2005, it still is. They might take great pride in their part of making conference history, if their attention wasn’t so focused elsewhere. “I hadn’t thought about it that way,” Dorrell said. He would rather not have reason to, but how distressing the times say he still does. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. He can be reached at [email protected] Saturday’s game between Tyrone Willingham’s Washington team and Karl Dorrell’s UCLA squad will be the 12th time black head coaches at Division I-A programs have squared off: Sept. 24, 1988 UNLV (Wayne Nunnely) 26, Ohio (Cleve Bryant) 18 Sept. 9, 1993 Temple (Ron Dickerson) 31, Eastern Michigan (Ron Cooper) 28 Nov. 18, 1995 Louisville (Ron Cooper) 57, North Texas (Matt Simon) 14 Nov. 9, 1996 Oklahoma (John Blake) 27, Oklahoma St. (Bob Simmons) 17 Sept. 27, 1997 Oklahoma (John Blake) 35, Louisville (Ron Cooper) 14 Nov. 8, 1997 North Texas (Matt Simon) 26, New Mexico St. (Tony Samuel) 15 Nov. 8, 1997 Oklahoma St. (Bob Simmons) 30, Oklahoma (John Blake) 7 Oct. 24, 1998 Oklahoma St. (Bob Simmons) 46, Oklahoma (John Blake) 26 Sept. 4, 1999 Oklahoma St. (Bob Simmons) 24, La.-Lafayette (Jerry Baldwin) 7 Dec. 1, 2001 Stanford (Tyrone Willingham) 41, San Jose St. (Fitz Hill) 14 Sept. 21, 2002 Notre Dame (Tyrone Willingham) 21, Michigan St. (Bobby Williams) 17 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 When Dorrell took the job at UCLA three years ago, he was one of five black head coaches. This does not qualify as progress. The numbers scream inequity. The numbers tell a tale more simply than Dorrell or Willingham or anyone ever could. Both seem somewhat reluctant to even address the issue. “I don’t think I’m in this profession because I’m black and because I got affirmative action to get this job,” Dorrell said. “That’s not why we’re here. There are a number of things that get blown out of proportion, and I’m sure he’d say the same thing. “I’m proud that I’m representing the minority coaches trying to do the things that I’ve been fortunate to do, but I don’t want to take any further than that. “There are a lot of great minority coaches just waiting for the opportunity to become a head coach and they’ll get their opportunities. But sadly enough, it depends on the success that we have.” They can’t pretend it’s not there. They would much rather it wasn’t, of course, that the entire subject was no longer worthy of questions and comments and unease. UCLA’s Karl Dorrell and Washington’s Tyrone Willingham will lead their schools into the Rose Bowl on Saturday, chipping away at one small piece of history. It will mark the first time two African-American Pacific-10 Conference head football coaches face each other. That this would be historic in 2005 makes it almost as troubling as Dorrell and Willingham actually representing two-thirds of all head black coaches – out of 118 Division 1-A programs. Sylvester Croom of Mississippi State is the other.