At 39, He’s The First Black Head Football Coach At The University Of Southern California In Its 140+ Year History


September 27, 2021

He’s shifting the culture at USC!

Donte Williams just made history as the University of Southern California’s (USC) first Black head football coach at the predominantly white institution in its 140+ year history. , USC Annenberg Media reports. The 39-year-old Williams is currently serving as interim head football coach after the firing of former coach Clay Helton. 


“I feel like this is the opportunity I was born for…To be the first African American head coach at USC means a lot to me. I mean it’s a lot of people that came before me that have paved the way for me to have this opportunity,” Williams said in a video on USC football’s social media page. 

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Williams has more than a dozen years of coaching under his belt including stints at Oregon, Arizona, San Jose State and Nebraska. He is also a top recruiter and only the fifth Black head football coach in the Pac-12 conference this year alongside Stanford, Arizona State, Washington and Colorado. Of The Power Five conferences which include the Pac-12, about 46% are made up of Black football athletes. Still, the representation of Black coaches is disproportionately low. Last year alone, three of the 11 Black Power Five head coaches lost their jobs with no Black head coaches being hired for any of the five conferences for the first time since 2015. 

Williams says he is grateful for the promotion and grateful for the opportunity, recently leading the Trojans to a 45-14 win against Washington State University at their first away game on September 18th.

Since he’s taken on the role, he’s received a number of support from current and former Trojan’s alike. 


Rodney Peete, one of USC’s last Black quarterbacks and a 15 year NFL quarterback said he’s rooting for Williams and hopes he’s able to get the position permanently. 

“When over 50 percent of your team is Black, you have to have that diversity in your coaching staff, and leadership is so important that way…If there is a dramatic turnaround with his team, I do hope they give him that shot [as head coach],” said Peete. 

C.J. Pollard, former USC safety from 2016 to 2019, likened Williams’ appointment to the moment President Obama got elected. Williams recruited Pollard out of high school and he said he believes he was built for this job. 


“[Williams] just relates to young culture. He’s a smart, young, aspiring future coach that is Black, leading a predominantly Black football team, so I think culture will be impacted and shifted dramatically,” said Pollard. 

As a former recruiter, Williams has built personal relationships with a lot of players and their families. Jaylin Smith, a USC cornerback, says he was also recruited by Williams in high school and they already have a bond. 

“It’s an honor being a part of Coach Williams’ era as becoming the first Black Coach,” Smith said. 


USC athletic director Mike Bohn also spoke about the significance of Williams’ relationship with the players, saying, “He knows them, he knows their families, he has great relationships with them, he has impeccable poise, he’s a leader.”

Williams’ promotion marks not only a turning point in the legacy of Trojans football but also the school as a whole, which can now serve as an example of what real change looks like. 

Six-time NFL Pro-Bowler and former Trojan Tim McDonald, said, “I think it’s pretty exciting that there is finally a chance to get to show the diversity that USC is capable of.”


Congratulations, Coach Williams!

Photo Courtesy of John McGillen/USC Athletics 

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