Historic achievement is just super for Smith, Dungy

Times Staff Writer

Hours after Chicago’s Lovie Smith became the first black coach to reach the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy took history a step further.

When Dungy’s Colts beat New England, they guaranteed an African American coach -- either Dungy or Smith -- will wind up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

So significant was the moment that John Wooten, who has devoted his life’s work to that, could hardly say the words. He spoke haltingly in a telephone interview Sunday and needed a moment to compose himself.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Wooten, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an advocacy group for black NFL coaches and executives. “We’re talking about two of the greatest people you’d ever want to meet. They are men of character.”


Dungy, who said he would speak more on the issue today, only touched briefly on the subject Sunday. He said he wanted to focus on what the victory meant to the Colts and the people of Indianapolis. It was he who gave Smith his first NFL job, as an assistant in Tampa Bay.

“When he took the job in Chicago, I said, ‘I’m happy you’re going to the NFC, and maybe we can play against each other,’ ” Dungy said.

Las Vegas oddsmakers installed Indianapolis as a one-touchdown favorite in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 at Miami’s Dolphin Stadium.

“I’ll feel even better to be the first black coach to hold up the world championship trophy,” Smith said.


Smith and Dungy are breaking new ground for black coaches in the league, much like Washington’s Doug Williams did for black quarterbacks in the 1988 Super Bowl.

“Being the first black coach to lead this team, of course our players knew about it, and they wanted to help us make history,” Smith said. “So I feel blessed to be in that position.”

After the Bears’ win and before the Colts’ game, Smith was excited about the prospect of facing his friend in the Super Bowl.

“We have to play someone, and, in my perfect world, I would like to see the Colts be that team,” Smith said. “Tony Dungy has done an awful lot for our game. He hasn’t had a chance to coach in the Super Bowl. I would love to see it.”


Now everyone will get that chance.

When Dungy started in Tampa Bay, there were only three black head coaches in the NFL.

This season, there were seven. Now, there will be two in the Super Bowl.

“Any time you’re the first person to do anything, regardless of your race or anything like that, it’s special,” Bears running back Thomas Jones said.


Smith and Dungy already have secured a huge victory for minority coaches, regardless of who brings home a championship.

“I’m happy for both coaches,” Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “I hope we get to the point we don’t have to hear about it.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.