The good news: there are a few African American head-coaching candidates in the pipeline. Prospects include Randy Shannon, defensive coordinator, University of Miami; Ron Cooper, defensive coordinator, Mississippi State; John Eason, assistant head coach, University of Georgia; David Kelly, associate head coach, Stanford; Tyrone Nix, defensive coordinator, Southern Mississippi; and Charlie Strong, defensive coordinator, University of Florida.
HALL OF SHAME
Make no mistake, the lack of diversity in NCAA football is evident on many levels. At the college level, African Americans are not getting a fair chance at head-coaching jobs. But as long as ADs and presidents, most of whom are white men, continue to do the hiring, this situation will continue. It almost becomes a Catch-22 scenario.
“The low numbers of African American athletic directors contribute to the low level of African Americans in coaching football,” says Matthews.
Bell believes the best strategy to increase the number of African American coaches is for the coaches who have broken the color barrier to help those who aspire to follow in their footsteps. “I told the BCA that if Jackson and Cochran are really interested in changing the numbers, they would lead the charge to help the few black coaches that exist — like Fitz Hill and Tyrone Willingham — become successful and get the best recruits,” he says.
Should the current group of African American coaches achieve a degree of success on the field, as Willingham did last year, it could lead to more doors opening for future black candidates. But that still isn’t the end of the issue. According to Lapchick, sports programs need to look at hiring practices outside of the high-profile positions. “When you look at the other positions in these programs, the percentages of African Americans are very low — it’s not just at the top, it’s throughout the organization,” he says. “If you bring in an African American general manager and he feels totally isolated within the organization, [unfamiliar] with the people and culture, his chance of success is going to be reduced as a result of not having [a] supportive environment.”
The BCA’s and Cochran’s positions basically come down to pressuring college administrators into allowing more African Americans to lead their teams on the gridiron. Whether this tactic will have an impact on the number of black coaches excluded from Division 1-A coaching remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that without such pressure, America’s largest colleges and universities will undoubtedly continue to fumble the ball. B
–Additional reporting by Curtis Bunn
Goals for Balancing the Scales
The Black Coaches Association, along with the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association, and attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran, issued a statement that lays out NCAA and NFL diversity hiring benchmarks they hope to reach.
Short-Term Goal (to be accomplished by August 2003)
Maximize the use of electronic and print media and political alliances to heighten awareness of the issues surrounding the hiring of minority coaches.
Create a partnership between the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, the American Football Coaches Association, and the Black