When Jay Norvell became head coach at Nevada, it was a long time coming. Norvell had spent three decades in coaching – both in college and the NFL – so to finally have his own program was a wonderful moment.
But he wants other African American coaches to have that same feeling.
“There’s a lot of quality African American assistants, guys that have invested their life into this profession, and I just think people need to pause and really consider those applicants and look seriously at their backgrounds,” Norvell said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I probably had a dozen interviews, and many of those I was a finalist to become a head coach over about a 20-year span. But to be honest, many of those I felt, as I got into the process, that I was just involved just to check a box. I think administrators, I think presidents, I think boosters really need to take a pause and really consider some of the many quality African American coaches that are out there.”
Norvell went 3-9 in his first season at Nevada but has finished with a winning record – 8-5 and 7-6 – two years in a row.
“I feel an obligation to do a great job,” Norvell said. “I really do. For many of the guys that haven’t got their opportunity, I want to prove that we can win and win at the highest level so other assistants can get the same opportunity that I’ve gotten.”
Despite interviewing for a number of jobs over the years, Norvell didn’t know if his time would come. In fact, there were times when he felt he wasn’t being seriously considered.
“It’s painful,” he said. “It hurts you because you do feel like you have the qualifications. Early on, it was great to have the experience of interviewing. But . . . it’s very disheartening to really quality African American coaches when that process is not legitimate, when it’s not taken seriously, and you can really see it as you go through it.
“This is my life’s work,” Norvell continued. “I’ve never had another profession. I’m pouring all of my years of experience into this job here at Nevada, but I’m not the only one. I know there’s been many, many, many great coaches that have never gotten this opportunity. That’s one of the reasons that I feel the weight and the obligation to do a great job.”