USC’s interim head football coach, Donte Williams, made history on September 13 as the first black head coach to ever run the football program after Clay Helton was fired. Former cornerbacks and associate head coach Williams, 39, is an accomplished coach and acclaimed recruiter, having spent more than a dozen years coaching other prominent college football programs such as Oregon, Arizona, San Jose State and Nebraska.
Williams was promoted to the job not taken at the predominantly white prestigious and private institution. That doesn’t change how the LA resident feels about the job, though.
I feel like this is the opportunity I was born for, he said in a video shared on USC soccer Instagram page. Being the first African American head coach at USC means a lot to me. I mean, it’s a lot of people who came before me that paved the way for me to have this opportunity.
Williams is only the fifth Blackhead football coach in the Pac-12 conference this year, along with Stanford, Arizona State, Washington and Colorado. The Power Five conferences, including the Pac-12, consist of: 46% Black Football Athletes, but hiring black coaches is still unequal. In 2020, three of the 11 Black Power Five head coaches lost their jobs and for the first time since 2015, no Black head coaches were hired in any of the five conferences, according to The Undefeated.
Rodney Peete, one of USC’s last Black quarterbacks and an NFL quarterback for 15 years, explained that in the world of football, many black coaches are passed over, so he supports Williams. If more than 50 percent of your team is black, you need to have that diversity in your coaching staff, and leadership is so important that way, he said.
Peete believes the team will respond with energy to Williams as a coach, saying: If there is a dramatic turnaround for his team, I hope they give him that opportunity. [as head coach].
CJ Pollard, who played security for the Trojans from 2016 to 2019, said Williams’ nomination feels like the election of President Barack Obama. Williams recruited Pollard from high school to play in San Jose State while he was working there. While Williams did not coach at USC while Pollard was there, Pollard believes Williams was built for this job and well prepared.
[Williams] relates only to the young culture. He’s a smart, young, ambitious future coach who is black, and runs a predominantly black football team, so I think the culture will be affected and change drastically, Pollard said.
Williams coaches the majority of the black team through more than wins and losses; he is also a life coach for the young men. He spends many hours a day with them and helps shape the players’ lives, as the Trojan family entails.
Jaylin Smith, a current cornerback for USC, explained how Williams recruited him during his high school career, so they already bond and he’s excited about the new opportunity for his coaches. It’s an honor to be a part of the Coach Williams era as the first Black Coach! he said.
Like Smith and Pollard, Williams has recruited players for the various institutions he coached at that are now Trojans, USC athletic director Mike Bohn explained in a statement. Press conference on Sept 13. He knows them, he knows their families, he has great relationships with them, he has impeccable balance, he’s a leader, Bohn said.
Tim McDonald, a former Trojan strongman and six-time NFL Pro-Bowler in the 1980s, said he’s heard nothing but good things about Williams and is looking forward to seeing him do a good job. I find it quite exciting that there is finally a chance to show the diversity that the USC is capable of.
Williams led the Trojans to a 45-14 win against Washington State University on September 18 in the team’s first away game.
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