Big-time college football obviously didn’t get the message on ‘diversity hiring’

In our new Obama Nation, in this wonderful post-racial world, as rainbows adorn our multicultural skies, it seems as if big-time college football didn’t get the email.

A new report card (PDF) was released today by a gem of a think-tank at the University of Central Florida called The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, or TIDES.

As it does annually for all the major sports leagues, TIDES examined the hiring practices of the 120 Division IA or so-called “Football Bowl Subdivision” college football programs. That’s major college football.

Here are the stunning facts: This college football season, there are only five more African-American head coaches in the United States than we now have African-American presidents-elect.

Count ’em: six black head coaches in the nation, and two of them, Washington’s Tyrone Willingham and Kansas State’s Ron Prince, have already been told they won’t be retained at season’s end.

In a universe in which about half of the nation’s big-time college football players are black, the leaders of their teams are 95 percent white.

And, guess what. The commissioners of all 11 big-time conferences are white guys, too. Among athletic directors, 9 percent are black, and 2 percent are Latino. (Four percent are women.)

Richard Lapchick, who directs TIDES, said in a release accompanying the report, “The general picture is still one of white men running college sport. 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.”

At Minnesota, head coach Tim Brewster, who is white, has one of the nation’s most diverse coaching staffs. Last season, with six African-American assistants, including defensive coordinator Everett Withers, Brewster had the most minority assistant coaches in the nation.

Withers jumped to North Carolina this year, but there are still five Gophers assistants who are black, and the Gophers’ head strength coach is also African-American. The national average is about 30 percent minorities as assistant coaches; Brewster’s staff is about 50 percent coaches of color, reflecting the makeup of the athletes on his team.

Last year in an interview, Brewster told me, “There are a lot of very, very qualified black football coaches who should be in leadership positions that aren’t. That’s the key — get African-American men in leadership positions. That’s when we’re going to grow as a profession.”

According to USA Today, the NCAA and the Division IA Athletic Directors Association are talking about college programs following more stringent hiring guidelines. Because of institutional autonomy, colleges can’t be forced to interview candidates as the NFL does under the so-called “Rooney Rule.” It’s named after Steelers owner Dan Rooney and requires teams to at least interview minority candidates.

Right now in the NFL there are six black head coaches for the 31 franchises, compared with six for 120 colleges, which are supposed to be institutions of higher education and models for imparting knowledge and values.

According to TIDES, since 1996, only 12 African-American coaches have been hired among 199 vacancies, or six percent of the total.

In his final interview before Americans went to the polls Tuesday, President-elect Obama was asked by ESPN’s Chris Berman, “If you could change one thing in sports, what would that be?”

Obama replied: “I think it is about time that we had playoffs in college football. You know, I am fed up with these computer rankings, and this and that and the other. Get eight teams. The top eight teams right at the end. You’ve got a playoff. Decide on a national champion.”

Of course, that’s Priority No. 4,297 on his “to do” list. But me thinks Prexy-to-be might want to change other things in sports first, and the hiring practices in college football would be an appropriate place to start.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by michael loehrer on 11/06/2008 - 06:32 pm.

    I sort of doubt that the “Prexy” has the right or duty to be even thinking about changing the hiring practices of our colleges. Obama works for the people. He carries out the laws that are passed. He doesn’t change laws regardless of what libs think. Just like a football coach, if he doesn’t perform he gets his butt canned.
    Brewster can talk all he wants about who should be in leadership positions but universities hire who can win and who can recruit. They’d hire a chimpanzee if it could win 10 games a year.

  2. Submitted by tom moore on 11/11/2008 - 09:32 am.

    the ratio of black college football players to black head coaches is shameful.

    that said, i think obama’s comment was a good one in that his answer about having playoffs was hitting on the theme of fair and open competition (a theme and a specific example that most people can get behind – and the guy was still campaigning at the time).

    i’m sure he wants university hiring processes to be fair and open, too, but wasn’t going to complain about racial bias on the night before becoming the country’s first, black president (and our 17th scotch-irish protestant president, i believe).

    lastly, the amount of female atheltic directors is possibly more absurd and/or shameful than the lack of black football coaches. women make up roughly half of an athletic department’s scholarship athletes, but they are only 4% of the athletic directors? wow.

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