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Washington head coach Ty Willingham

Second Report Confirms Dearth of Black College Football Coaches

November 13, 2008 10:04 AM
by Denis Cummings
A new report highlights a lack of hiring diversity in football coaching positions; the number of black head coaches in top programs has dropped to the lowest in 15 years.

Fewest Black Coaches in 15 Years

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Within 10 days after the United States elected its first black president, two reports on coaching diversity have called attention to the shortage of black coaches in college football. Following the dismissals, effective at the end of the season, of Washington’s Ty Willingham and Kansas State’s Ron Prince, there are just four black head coaches remaining in the 119-team NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).

On Nov. 6, the The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida released its annual report detailing the number of minorities in leadership positions in college sports. It found that there are few minority head coaches, athletic directors and school presidents, and no minority commissioners.

“I found it appalling,” Charlotte Westerhaus, NCAA vice president for diversity and inclusion, said of the report in a Los Angeles Times interview. “It’s extremely disturbing in light of the fact there are a wealth of African American coordinators and a vast majority of football players are African American.”

On Nov. 12, Black Coaches and Administrators released its annual hiring report card, which reviewed the 31 Division I schools that hired head coaches this past off-season. Though its grades were improved over last year, BCA executive director Floyd Keith expressed disappointment that so few black coaches were being hired.

“In the world of college football, the facts and statistics reflect an unmistakable bias and a systemic problem that has yet to be fixed. My deep concern is, `Why are the college football hiring practices out of synch?” asked Keith hypothetically.

Both TIDES and the BCA found that universities have taken steps to give more minority candidates the chance to interview for head coaching positions, but few of those candidates are hired. “The message in this report is the process is being followed, but the poor hiring results continue,” said Keith.

“While the percentages are slightly better, the general picture is still one of white men running college sport,” said TIDES director Richard Lapchick in an introduction to his report. “Overall, the numbers simply do not reflect the diversity of our student-athletes. Moreover, they do not reflect the diversity of our nation where we have elected an African-American as President for the first time.”

Opinion & Analysis: What changes must be made?

Lapchick has called for the NCAA to follow the NFL's example, which in 2002 instituted the “Rooney Rule” requiring a team to interview at least one minority for a head coaching vacancy. Due in part to the rule, the number of black NFL coaches has increased from two in 2001 to seven currently.

However, the rule might not be effective or feasible in the NCAA. The majority of schools—Westerhaus put the number at 90 percent—already interview minority candidates, but only a small percentage hire that candidate.

“We’re getting people into the room—they’re just not getting hired,” said Lapchick, according to the Kansas City Star.

Additionally, UC Berkeley sociology professor Harry Edwards told The Los Angeles Times that the NCAA likely couldn’t enforce such a rule even if it was instituted. “When you look at the amount of actual oversight power that the NCAA has, you find there is a tremendous amount of latitude for autonomy,” he said. “When you don't have an institutionalized process that guarantees a broad pool of candidates, it's left to an individual case-by-case initiative.”

ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski suggests that a black coach stage a public protest of the situation, similar to the way Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson protested a piece of NCAA legislation by walking off the court during a game. “You can also do what Thompson did,” he writes. “You can draw a line in that turf and say, ‘No more.’ You can make a stand, make noise and perhaps make a difference.”

FOXSports.com’s Jason Whitlock believes that the coaches themselves can improve the situation by making better decisions about accepting jobs. “Ron Prince's experience at Kansas State is an example of what is limiting black college football coaches,” he writes. “A talented coach with limitless potential took a job that he wasn't ready for at a place that wasn't ready for him.”

Whitlock advises black coaches to follow the lead of Turner Gill, who took a low-pressure job at Buffalo that has allowed him to gain experience as a head coach. “Gill is taking the proper path to coaching greatness,” says Whitlock. “He is likely to get a BCS job in the next two to three years. When he gets it, he'll be ready.”

Reference: Hiring Report Cards

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