“A lot of Johnnie Cochran’s leverage is public awareness, and there tends to be a short memory span for that in this country,” says Kevin J. Matthews, director of external affairs at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society. “The country being outraged for a year is not going to change the system. The system will only change by bringing in more people of color. There’s no other way.”
The BCA has launched a long-term plan that has already shown signs of turning the tide, Keith says optimistically. Part of the plan includes a hiring report card, which is an annual survey generated by the combined efforts of the BCA, the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association. The report card system recommends, among other things, that at least one ethnic minority faculty, athletic administrator, and football student-athlete is involved in the hiring process for head-coaching vacancies.
NCAA President Myles Brand says the dearth of black coaches in Division 1-A football is “a serious problem,” but he says he is optimistic about these diversifying efforts. Another such initiative is the NCAA Coaches Academy for football coaches. The NCAA allocated $180,000 to develop the program, which is comprised of workshops designed to enhance skills, interview preparation, networking, résumé building, media training, and booster relations. Whether this will actually have an impact or simply increase the number of African Americans qualified for, but left out of, the head-coach-interviewing process remains to be seen.
The BCA’s Keith says the goal of these undertakings is not to have African Americans considered just because of skin color, but to ensure that qualified candidates are no longer shut out on the basis of race. “We’re not publicly going to say, ‘Don’t go to school A’ — that defeats our purpose,” Keith explains. “But we need to present the case that if school X does not have minority representation in their athletic department and the environment isn’t such that it creates opportunities for you in the future, go somewhere else where it does.”
At the very least, institutions that refuse to make the hiring of African American head coaches a priority will be spotlighted — particularly in the media, which will in turn affect their bottom line (read: enrollment, gate receipts). “The moment we put out those grades, everybody will wake up. I will guarantee you this, you can’t hide an F,” Keith says.
Harry Edwards, one of this country’s premier sports activists who played a key role in organizing the “Revolt of the Black Athlete” at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, would like the BCA to take an even more radical approach. “The BCA needs to go to the parents of the top 100 high school seniors, give them a ‘whitelist’ of ranked schools, and ask: ‘Is your child being recruited by any of these schools?’ [Then] show [the parents] where the institutions rank on our whitelist’; the higher they rank, the more [parents] should not consider them,” says Edwards, a founding member of