Below is the text for the letter from 62 former Illini:
November 22, 2004
Mr. Ron Guenther
Division of Intercollegiate Athletics
Dear Mr. Guenther,
It is with great pride and optimism that we address you today. We are former players, alumni, Varsity I letter winners and fans of the great University of Illinois. We want to take this opportunity to communicate to you our collective ideas about how the University of Illinois can select a successor to Ron Turner as head football coach. It is our objective to see that Illinois football program return to its great tradition of winning football and producing great players, great memories and great men. We want the program to be competitive at the Big Ten and national levels on a consistent basis while maintaining its great academic reputation. We know that this has been done and can be done again.
In pursuit of the aforementioned goals, we advocate that you seriously consider and enact a search process that includes several African American candidates and other coaches of color. As you may know, there are currently only 2 African American head coaches in Division IA out of 117 schools. The University of Illinois and Purdue University are the only Big Ten schools to have never hired an African American to be head football coach or menís basketball coach. Illinois has also never hired an African American coordinator for offense or defense. We feel this is a dubious and dishonorable distinction that must be addressed. In a state that is over 15% African American and on a campus that is 7% African American and where African American football players make up over 40% of the team, we feel it is imperative that African Americans be given a fair and equal opportunity to lead this great program and we should do better.
Unfortunately, Illinois is not alone in its dearth of opportunities given to African Americans. Since 1996, 142 job openings have come available in Division IA. In that span, only one African American has been hired in each of those years. Let''s begin to change this shameful streak of exclusion by acting affirmatively and decisively in this search. We are the flagship public university in this state and should be an example to the state of the university''s own equal opportunity and affirmative action policies. We feel that now is a great opportunity for Illinois to show that it wants to be a leader in promoting diversity and excellence and return our fabled and beloved alma mater to its traditional greatness on the gridiron.
We feel quite strongly that there are a plethora of highly qualified coaches of color that can quite ably and admirably get the desired results. We have solicited the advice of the Black Coaches Association and the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida University to assist us with how an equitable search process can yield the best candidates available. We want to make clear that we want the process to yield the absolute best candidate for the University of Illinois, but we also believe that that person can indeed be African American, Latino or Asian if given the chance to succeed.
To assist you with the difficult and important task of choosing the next leader of the football program, we are making a list of recommendations for your information to address some of the concerns we have. We are also providing you with a list of candidates that we feel would bring enthusiasm, honor and winning back to Illinois. They are listed in alphabetical order only and not reflective of any order of preference. We look forward to discussing with you our concerns and recommendations and soliciting your feedback, as we know you have a very difficult task at hand. We respect your admirable and passionate leadership of Illinois athletics and wish you continued success and we hope that we share common ground with you on the issues before us. We are prepared to remain an active and influential voice for positive change within the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. Go Illini!
Thanks and Best regards.
We request that you participate in the Black Coaches Association Hiring Report Card conducted by the Paul Robeson Research Center. You will receive a packet of material from BCA Executive Director Floyd Keith in the next few days detailing how Illinois can participate
We encourage you to speak with Floyd Keith and/or the chair of the NCAAís Minority Opportunity Interests Committee (MOIC) about your hiring processes and inquiring about the availability of BCA member coaches for the vacant head coach job at Illinois
We strongly encourage you to form a search committee to assist you with this hire and future hires in DIA. It is important to us that faculty and staff of color be active members of any search committee and part of the process for selecting qualified candidates for all head coaching positions within DIA
We encourage you to invite several qualified candidates of color to the Illinois campus for on-campus interviews
We are encouraged by your press statement of 11-22-04 that your search process would take 3-4 weeks to complete. We feel this will allow for all qualified candidates to get an appropriate audience with you and the search committee
We strongly encourage you to follow the University of Illinoisí published affirmative action policies during the search and selection processes
We also request that you meet with a committee of former players in person as soon as possible to discuss our concerns about this process
List of Possible Candidates of Color for Head Football Coach at Illinois
Norm Chow, Offensive Coordinator, USC
Leslie Frazier, Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Rodney Garner, Defensive Line Coach and Recruiting Coordinator, University of Georgia
Tim Lewis, Defensive Coordinator, New York Giants
Ron Rivera, Defensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears
Randy Shannon, Defensive Coordinator, University of Miami
Ray Sherman, Receivers Coach, Green Bay Packers
Sherman Smith, Running Backs Coach, Tennessee Titans
Charlie Strong, former Defensive Coordinator, University of Florida
Bobby Turner, Running Backs Coach, Denver Broncos
Dewayne Walker, Running Backs Coach, Washington Redskins
Kirby Wilson, Running Backs Coach, Arizona Cardinals
Alex Wood, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals (Former Head Coach at James Madison)
We are the undersigned Varsity I Letter winners of the University of Illinois: (62 members)