Uneven playing field
By Terry Bowden, Yahoo Sports
June 30, 2005
There are 117 colleges participating in Division I-A football and there are only three black head coaches. You don't have to be too smart to know how stupid this looks.
Let me lay it out for you:
Plainly and simply, folks, this is discrimination. More precisely this is one of the last and greatest bastions of discrimination within all of American sports.
In college football, we are winning games, building programs and making millions of dollars with the sweat and blood of African-American athletes. I should know. In the last dozen years, my family alone has made more than $30 million as Division I-A head football coaches.
At least once a day, I get asked, "When are you getting back into coaching?" Heck, schools don't need to hire me. They need to hire from the untapped talent that exists within the pool of black assistant coaches.
It really isn't that hard to understand why big-time college football is in this embarrassing situation. Quite simply, the 117 Division I-A schools are white. They have a large majority of white students, with 95 percent of the schools with white presidents and 89 percent with white athletics directors. They also have a whole lot of white alumni who aren't afraid to let their opinions be known – especially the fact that they don't want a black head football coach.
So what can be done?
Until this point, there has been nothing more than a toothless debate regarding the hiring of minority coaches. It's time for every party involved to take affirmative action.
Who are the main parties involved in the hiring of head football coaches?
First of all, although the NCAA cannot select head coaches, it can legislate change, starting with the "Rooney Rule" that has made such a big impact in the NFL. It requires teams to interview an African-American candidate before hiring a coach. Since its enactment in the NFL two years ago, the number of black head coaches has increased from three to six.
Secondly, the NCAA must increase the pool of African-American coaches. Currently, each institution is permitted to hire two graduate assistant coaches. Universities should be allowed to hire a third graduate assistant if that coach is a minority. This will increase the number of available black coaches.
Also, we must expect more out of our college presidents, who have an even more important responsibility. They are the leading scholars of our academic institutions, and they should see beyond bias and stereotypes and seek grander principles. When it comes to hiring and setting the tone at their universities, they are in charge.
Many presidents won't hire black coaches because they are worried about how alumni and donors will react. When black basketball coaches were scarce 30 years ago, the same argument was used – and it was wrong. Positive change only can occur when college presidents provide leadership, refusing to let boosters call the shots.
There is too much of a rush to hire football coaches – to quickly get the hottest name to help in recruiting. A program will not be made or broken in the first three weeks of December. We need to allow the process to take place, and for this to happen, college presidents must make diversity a priority.
Then there are the athletics directors. They gather the list of candidates and form the search committees – and also sit only a phone call away from every wealthy booster's opinion about how to run the program. It's time for them to show some backbone.
Every AD in the country has a short list of coaching candidates for when the time comes. They need to find out who the top black coaches are and add them to their list. At least this may get them in the ballgame.
Finally, head coaches must do everything they can to identify and encourage promising young black athletes to become coaches. They must convince these athletes that coaching is a noble, worthy profession and that, when the time comes, they will give them an opportunity to coach.
Today's head coaches must move beyond the unwritten rule that says staffs will consist of seven white and two black coaches. For today's staffs to be more representative of the student-athletes they recruit, there ought to be at least one black coordinator and three or four black assistant coaches. Most importantly, this must be done not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it is the best way to win games.
Players are told they must make their grades if they are going to play the game. Maybe it's time college football took a look at its own report card.
Terry Bowden is Yahoo! Sports' college football analyst. For more information about Terry, visit his official web site.
Updated on Thursday, Jun 30, 2005 2:51 am, EDT