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Black coaches

2007 March 1
by Skip Sauer

A congressional hearing took place yesterday on the issue of black coaches in college football. Jesse Jackson, the NCAA’s Myles Brand,Kansas State’s AD, and others particpated. The tone of some remarks reported here was emotional, and various remedies from bribing schools to suing them were proposed. Here are the numbers:

Of the 119 Division I-A schools, only six have black head football coaches. There are even fewer in the lower divisions: five in Division I-AA, two in Division II and one in Division III. The figures exclude historically black colleges.

In addition, there are only 12 black athletic directors in Division I-A, and not a single major conference commissioner is black.

Of the six D1A schools, there are black coaches at Buffalo (Gill), Kansas State (Prince), Miami (Shannon), Mississippi State (Croom), UCLA (Dorrell), and at my alma mater, Washington (Willingham). UCLA has a history of incorporating black talent in a discriminating market that goes back to Jackie Robinson, who played football there before breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. Buffalo is a new program at which the allegedly discriminatory network of boosters is largely absent. This might contribute to their having a black athletic director as well. The economic theory of discrimination implies that non-discriminators will profit by employing talented people who the discriminators ignore. Buffalo and UCLA being members of this small club of six falls in line with the theory. But where are the other non-discriminators, and what is Mississippi State doing on the list? There may be a bit more to the story than what’s being reported.

While the report suggests that the mood at the hearing was quite negative on this issue, I see things differently. Here just south of tobacco road, the roster of basketball coaches in the basketball-mad ACC was once all-white. Today, Clemson, FSU, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State & UVa, along with northern outpost Boston College all have black head coaches. That’s a majority of minorities, folks. Even the disaster at Maryland after the Bob Wade saga could not hold back the tide in this booster-heavy, but more importantly, highly competitive league.

A statistic I’d like to see is the number of black assistant head coaches and coordinators at D1A schools, relative to a decade ago. This is the wellspring of future coaching talent. If it is much better stocked with black talent than ten years ago, and I believe it is, the six current coaches are just the tip of the iceberg. If it can happen in tobacco road hooops, it can happen anywhere.

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