|Changing look of college football coaches is complex business|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 December 2007 06:52|
When he watches games, the NCAA president often sees the same old picture: white head coaches patrolling the sidelines with coordinators who don't look much different than their bosses.
Brand has spent years using his bully pulpit trying to cajole and lobby athletic directors and university presidents to embrace diversity. Progress has been agonizingly slow, and that's disconcerting to Brand.
``I feel very frustrated about it, and I don't have the legal ability to dictate hiring decisions,'' he told The Associated Press. ``We've put in place everything we can think of that would work.''
By any measure, the attempts have failed.
The numbers show college football still lags significantly behind the NFL. Emmitt Thomas became the seventh black coach in the 32-team NFL after recently accepting the interim job at Atlanta. The 119-school Football Bowl Subdivision has six black coaches.
Although the NFL adopted the Rooney Rule, which requires each team with a coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate, the NCAA instead has relied on persuasive power.
Of the 17 vacancies in the former Division I-A this year, Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Navy's Ken Niumatalolo were the only coaches of color hired, increasing the number of minority head coaches to eight. Three schools - Southern Methodist, UCLA and West Virginia - are still searching for new coaches.
Historical trends look worse. According to the most recent Black Coaches and Administrators hiring report card, only 12 of 199 vacancies between 1996 and 2006 went to blacks and only 27 black head coaches, including Sumlin, ever have been hired at FBS schools.
Sports sociologist Richard Lapchick, who issues annual grades based on diversity in the pro and college ranks, recently called football the most segregated sport in college athletics.
``Maybe this year we'll get to double figures, who knows,'' BCA executive director Floyd Keith said. ``But I shouldn't be happy with double figures. It's still not right. It's like if we had one coach of color and added another, that would be a 50 percent increase. It's not right.''
Keith has been outspoken about the need for a college version of the Rooney Rule. But Jim Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten, doesn't believe it would work because some candidates would refuse to take what might be perceived as a token interview.
Economics are also a problem.
Delany said he believes the big-time money of pro and college sports has made it more difficult to attract first-time head coaches to entry-level positions at smaller schools.
``To take the Youngstown State job or the Temple job or the Kent (State) job or a Division III job or whatever, not to be disrespectful of those schools, but they're considered coaching graveyards,'' Delany said. ``If you're making $30,000 or $40,000 per year, you might take it, but not if you're making $300,000 per year.''
Ron Dickerson, a former Temple coach and one of the few black coaches to lead an FBS school, said the NCAA must mandate changes.
``I said that 15 years ago,'' said Dickerson, the interim athletic director at Alabama State. ``The NCAA makes rules on everything else. They make rules on athletic eligibility and whether someone can enter into an institution, but when it comes to minority coaches or black coaches or female coaches, they're distant.''
And he worries that athletic directors and presidents, who are also predominantly white, are more worried about losing money than doing what's right.
``I think we all know what the problem is, and it's the money people who give schools big bucks,'' Dickerson said. ``Unfortunately, the presidents and athletic directors are not making those calls.''
Still, some university leaders believe its their responsibility to make changes.
Robert Foglesong, the Mississippi State president, spent 33 years in the U.S. Air Force and has brought some of his military lessons to the academic world.
``When I was flying a fighter in harm's way, I could care less about the color of skin of my wing man,'' he said. ``I was concerned with whether they were protecting my wing. I wanted him or her to be part of my band of brothers or sisters, and that's the approach we're taking here.''
Foglesong never wavered last year when Bulldogs fans grew restless after a third straight three-win season. He repeatedly said coach Sylvester Croom was ``his man.'' Now, Mississippi State is bound for its first bowl game since 2000 with the first black coach in Southeastern Conference history.
Buffalo is the only Division I school with a black athletic director, football coach and men's basketball coach. Its president, John Simpson, wants university leaders to make things right.
``I guess when you have this information and this situation where there are so few African-Americans in coaching and in athletic directors positions, when so many of our athletes are African-American, there should be some level of concern among my colleagues,'' Simpson said.
Others, such as Bowling Green president Sidney Ribeau, the chairman of the NCAA's subcommittee on gender and diversity issues, want conference officials to take the lead.
Delany thinks it would only risk more legal action.
But if nothing changes, the NCAA, conferences and individual schools still could find themselves in court.
In October, the BCA threatened to pursue lawsuits under Title VII civil rights legislation if the numbers don't improve. Keith's organization has pressed for more inclusiveness in interviews, more diversity in hires and more deliberation in searches.
M and Mississippi for not giving qualified minority candidates a fair chance this year. Those schools spent three days searching for replacements.
Keith isn't the only one who sees hastiness as a problem.
``My sense is we jump a little too quickly,'' Foglesong said. ``You see somebody or know somebody you think is logical to fill the position and gravitate to them, and that's not always a good thing. You need to look at the big tent, a broader group and let the system work.''
While interim president Ed Davis insisted his athletic director's short list included the names of three minority candidates, Davis' long relationship with Sherman certainly helped ease any angst about the new Aggies coach.
``I knew Mike from his previous time here, and we happen to go to the same church and so I knew more about the quality of him as a human being and he was someone I felt had the integrity that fit our institution,'' Davis said.
In the world of diversification, Keith believes that's simply not good enough.
``The problem is that even though the searches are getting more inclusive, the results still seem to be the same,'' Keith said. ``You take the basketball comparison where about 23 to 26 percent of the coaches are coaches of color and then you see football. It's just gross.''
Last year's Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy, was disappointed when colleges showed no interest in two NFL assistants he recommended for jobs - Mike Tomlin, now the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, and Leslie Frazier, the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.
Tomlin has the Steelers bound for the playoffs, and Frazier has the league's top-ranked run defense with three of his starters headed to the Pro Bowl.
``I recommended Mike and Leslie to a number of schools last year, and they didn't even get to first base,'' Dungy said. ``It's so much about name recognition in those college jobs. It's almost like, as a minority coach, you not only have to get a coordinator's job in the NFL, you have to get a head coaching job and win to get a shot in college football.''
During Brand's tenure as president, the NCAA has created a minority coaching academy, developed a close relationship with the BCA and in 2005 hired Charlotte Westerhaus for a new position: vice president for diversity and inclusion. But setting a national hiring standard, Brand explained, poses a minefield of legal problems.
Schools already are required to abide by federal and state laws as well as the rules established by their own governing boards, and Brand said he fears NCAA intervention could lead to reverse discrimination lawsuits.
NCAA officials do see positive signs.
According to last year's BCA report card, minority candidates received about a third of all finalist interviews, although the hiring numbers remained basically stagnant.
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics has implemented a scholarship program to help minority students pursue careers in athletic administration, a move they hope will create more diversity among decision-makers.
Brand applauds such action.
Keith acknowledges the NCAA faces restrictions, but he believes that until the NCAA does something, nobody else will.
``It's like Title IX, that was difficult to enforce to until everyone had to do it,'' Keith said. ``I'd like to see something where - you don't have to have an African-American hired for every job - but you have an interview process that's viable and diverse and it has to have penalties. Without penalties, nothing changes.''