Major college football media guides aren't just for the media. They get mailed to recruits, sold to fans and displayed on coffee tables in athletic department waiting areas. In short, they give head coaches a forum in which to make a statement. For Temple University's new head coach, Ron Dickerson, the statement for 1993 was obvious: Qualified African-American Head Coach at Work.

A color photograph of him in practice garb dominates the cover. The pages devoted to his biography include testimonials from famous college and pro coaches and a former player. There is a reproduction of the cover of his book, "101 Defensive Back Drills and Techniques."

There also is a shaded box that lists the six African Americans who had worked as head football coaches at National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-A schools, the two other African Americans who are working as I-A head coaches this season and the 12 African Americans who, as of July 28, were working at I-A schools as an assistant head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator, including Maryland defensive coordinator Larry Slade.

"I wanted that exposed," Dickerson said last week. "I'm the last person to be a radical or a militant when it comes to expressing my views toward racial equality. But to me it's sad that there's only three head coaches in Division I-A college football, and I think if God has given me the voice to speak out, I'm going to speak out for the rights of others. ...

"If I felt there weren't qualified African-American assistants out there, I wouldn't say one word. But I know there are guys out there just as good as Ron Dickerson or just as good as any other head coach in this country. They deserve the opportunity to be interviewed, and more so the opportunity to be a head coach."

Dickerson, 45, spent the 1991 and '92 seasons as defensive coordinator for Clemson before going to Temple. He interviewed for seven head coaching openings, including Maryland's in 1991, before Temple hired him last November. At the time, college football was completing a season in which none of the then-107 Division I-A schools employed an African American as its head coach (there are 106 I-A schools this season). And it wasn't as if a sudden disappearance of African-American head coaches had occurred. Since 1979, when Wichita State made Willie Jeffries the first African American to hold a Division I-A head coaching job, no more than four I-A schools had simultaneously employed an African American as head coach.

But Dickerson's hiring seemed to have an effect. Early last December, Eastern Michigan hired Ron Cooper, who, at age 32, is Division I-A's youngest head coach this season. Late last December, Wake Forest made Jim Caldwell, 38, the Atlantic Coast Conference's -- and southern Division I-A football's -- first African-American head coach.

"Ron has probably been more involved than any of us" in seeking head coaching positions for and speaking out on behalf of all African-American coaches, Caldwell said. "My first interview for a head coaching job was this job. So I appreciate what he's done for me in that. ... I think it made it much easier for a Jim Caldwell or a Ron Cooper, who also was able to secure a job with his first interview. In a way, he's been a trailblazer for us."

A Win-Win Situation

Dickerson also believes Temple's recruiting could benefit from him being an African American. "You have to look at it," he said. "If you're an African American, you'd have to say, 'That university has a lot of pride and a lot of guts.' ... We've had kids, parents and coaches call us and say, 'Hey, you have to recruit this great player here in Louisiana -- he's heard about you, he's read about it in Jet magazine and says, 'I want to play for that guy.' "

Temple's players also view Dickerson in an inspirational fashion. They began their season Sept. 9 by equaling their 1992 victory total with a 31-28 win over Eastern Michigan. That game was only the second between Division I-A schools that both had African-American head coaches -- a fact noted in boldface type in another box on Dickerson's biography pages in the media guide.

Consecutive losses of 58-0 to then-No. 21 California and 66-14 to Boston College have hurt the Owls' record, but not their excitement about Dickerson.

"Coach's attitude and his enthusiasm have changed the spirits of everyone from the janitors to the whole staff," junior running back Ralphiel Mack said last week. "I mean, it's even when I go to class. Everybody's rooting for us now, saying, 'Come on, guys -- you can do it. That coach is really going to help you all out.' People seem to love him. I don't know if it's his color. I really don't think that's it."

"He's a great coach, but {other schools} just never gave him a shot," sophomore center John Summerday said. "We don't want to have to have a 1-10 season the first year and make everybody think he's not a good coach because he is."

He will have to be. Temple has had two winning seasons in the last 13. And it is a tough place to recruit. Located amid the asphalt and cement of north Philadelphia, Temple's main on-campus athletic field is a city-block expanse of artificial greenery known as Geasey Field. Across the street from one side of Geasey Field are a series of boarded-up rowhouses.

Men's basketball coach John Chaney's success story has turned the on-campus, 3,900-seat McGonigle Hall into a opposing team's nightmare. The football team plays at the other end of town, in 66,592-seat Veterans Stadium -- and generally draws crowds of fewer than 20,000.

A New Direction

Temple President Peter J. Liacouras and then-athletic director Charlie Theokas were so anxious to change the program's direction last year, they spared little during their quest for Dickerson, whose name had been raised when Temple hired Jerry Berndt in December 1988.

Liacouras had learned that at least two other schools were interested in Dickerson. So Theokas, Temple's incoming and outgoing executive vice presidents and its best-known alumnus and benefactor, Bill Cosby, flew in Cosby's jet to meet with Dickerson in Greenville, S.C., on Nov. 7 -- when the Owls had two games remaining on their schedule and Berndt had more than a year remaining on his contract.

Dickerson was named Temple's coach Nov. 24 -- three days after Clemson and Temple had concluded their 1992 seasons. He was the only person Temple interviewed.

"At one point Cosby says to him, 'Ronny, now you know if you have three or four years where you just can't teach them anything, we'll be on another plane looking for another coach. What do you think about that, Ronny?' " Liacouras recalled. "Dickerson's response was, 'It's Ron -- not Ronny.' At that point we knew we had our man."

Seated at a table for his weekly news conference last Tuesday, Dickerson looked like a recently retired athlete-turned-businessman. His dress slacks were neatly creased. His tightly knotted tie fell the length of a white long-sleeved shirt. The collar and cuffs were stiffly pressed. The buttons at his midsection didn't strain. When he spoke, he gestured gently with large hands, one of which was adorned with a national championship ring he earned as an assistant coach with Penn State in 1986.

Dickerson played football for Kansas State and briefly for the National Football League's Miami Dolphins, who picked him in the seventh round of the 1971 draft. His son, Ron Jr., is a rookie wide receiver-kick returner for the Kansas City Chiefs.

But his greatest renown has come from his 22-year coaching career. A defensive coach throughout -- primarily as a defensive backs coach -- he has sent 20 players to the NFL. He also has served as president of the Black Coaches Association. His quest for a head coaching position had gained momentum because of the number of times he was interviewed, but he was beginning to wonder if a converse type of momentum was starting.

"There were people out there saying, 'Ron, you may think it's good to be turned down and get all these interviews, but there are some people who think, 'Well, there's something wrong with this guy. He's been turned down so many times. What's the deal?' " Dickerson said.

Deep inside, he knew what the deal was. And when he was hired by Temple, he understood how Liacouras's and Cosby's involvements in the decision had affected the deal.

"I think the old money is disappearing and the new money is coming in," Dickerson said. "Young alums are starting to give money to athletic departments and universities, and their views toward hiring processes and a lot of things are different than the old regime's."

And: "I think that one of the problems nationally is that the presidents don't get involved in the hiring process with a football coach. I think a lot of times it's that good-old-boy network, where one famous head coach calls the athletic director, and the athletic director talks to the {search committee} chairperson. In a lot of instances, when it came to the African American getting the job, he didn't have that network. He couldn't call the famous head coach and say, 'Hey, would you call so and so for me?' "

But Dickerson could call the famous coach. In the latter stages of his 21 years as an assistant, he worked for Ken Hatfield at Clemson, Joe Paterno at Penn State (1985 to '90, including five years working on the same staff as Caldwell) and Bill McCartney at Colorado (1982 to '84). He endured what he came to believe were essentially bogus interviews. But until his move to Clemson, he hadn't worked as a coordinator.

"The one thing I have to admit is that I really feel that being a coordinator helped my opportunity to become a head coach," he said. "I was bitter {about being rejected for jobs on that basis} because I felt like I was just as good a coach, but I needed the title. ... When I got that job, I started thinking here is a lot of responsibility tied into being a coordinator. It's not just a title. I see some merit in some programs saying they're looking for a coordinator."

However, Dickerson is learning aspects of head coaching the hard way. During his weekly news conference last Tuesday, he made a remarkable statement for a coach. He said he lied to his team prior to the game against California.

"I told them I felt like they were equal to Cal's football team," he said. "As a staff, we knew that Cal was a better football team. But I was trying to use that approach so the kids would think, 'Hey, we are as good as this team even though they're {ranked} 21st in the nation.' Then, when we lined up on the field, and the kids looked at {the Golden Bears}, they're saying, 'These coaches are crazy. We ain't as good as these guys.' What happened is that the whole bottom fell out. ...

"I told them {last Monday}, 'That will never happen again. There will be teams we will play before this season is over that are much better than us, and I will tell you they are much better than us.' "

Said Mack: "I never had a coach come back and tell me that he lied. I believe that I had a coach lie to me, but I never had a coach come back and admit it. The whole team respects that."

Hoping for a Ripple Effect

Dickerson and Caldwell and Cooper would like to have the same impact on the college football world. There has been talk of the progress that their hirings represents. But there were three African-American head coaches in 1991, zero in 1992 and now there are three again. "We're basically in the same situation we've been in for years," Caldwell said.

"I think we'll probably be able to make a better determination of how much progress we've made in the future. If in 1994 there are still only three, we have not made much progress. If in 1994, if there are six or seven and so on, then I'll think we've begun to try to bridge the gap. And I'll be glad when that occurs because then the novelty, the uniqueness about Jim Caldwell, Ron Dickerson and Ron Cooper will no longer exist."