Concerned about the paucity of Black coaches and athletics administrators on college campuses, the Black Coaches Association (BCA) devoted a major portion of its annual conference, held last month in Miami, to helping its members prepare and successfully compete for positions in higher education.
"This was an educational conference," said Rudy Washington, executive director of the BCA and athletics director at Compton Community College in California. "We have a lot of new members who need to get job opportunities."
BCA invited athletic directors and other college administrators to the conference in hopes of sensitizing them to the concerns of the association. Aside from meeting with members, the guests participated in interview preparation clinics. However, the turnout of athletic directors was mediocre.
"This is something we have to work on and invite them again. It was not a good turnout, but I can't say they're not interested in the issues," said Alex Wood, vice president of the BCA and head football coach at James Madison University. "It is a process that has to be cultivated. Unfortunately, I am not a person who is diligent in waiting my turn...[and] this is not where we extend an offer once and have them come at our beck and call."
Nevertheless, many were impressed with what they saw. Gene DeFilippo, athletics director at Villanova University, was one of them. After meeting with coaches - several of whom said they were "wowed" by him - DeFilippo said that, as a result of the conference, he now knew people whom he could recommend for jobs in the future.
"I had an absolutely enjoyable time at the BCA," said DeFilippo. "I met some wonderful people. It gave me a chance to... make friends with some brilliant young coaches - guys who are right on the verge of getting head coaching jobs."
Becoming a Successful Candidate
According to DeFilippo, there are six important ingredients for becoming a successful candidate for a job: hard work, smart work, teamwork, fun, written goals, and networking.
Mary Kennard, general counsel at American University, said that good job candidates must distinguish themselves. And unfortunately, she added, Black candidates must be even further distinguished.
"[Black candidates] need to look at other aspects of a campus and use that to facilitate uniqueness," she said. "They need to serve on university-wide committees. They need to develop financial experience, networking, how to move projects forward. In other words, bulk up your resume....
"It is given [that] you are already exceptional at what you do," Kennard continued. "That is the problem. You have to do your job and still do more. But when you are head and shoulders above the other candidates, then race actually gives you an extra plus."
Vivian Fuller, athletic director at Northeastern Illinois University, agreed that uniqueness is the name of the game for Black coaches and sports administrators. Additionally, said Fuller - the Only Black female to direct an athletics department at a National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division I institution that is not an historically Black college or university (HBCU) - candidates need to know the hiring practices that go on in collegiate athletics - which, Fuller admits, is not always easy.
"It's an uphill battle," she said. "By the time a job opening hits the NCAA News, it already has a name on it. We need to try to be on the front end of this. We need to be aware of how to get the upper hand. We need to know who sets the rules written rules and unwritten rules."
That means doing extensive homework and figuring out how to get into the loop, said Fuller, who praised the CBA conference for providing the coaches with some real-life experience and guidance from the people who do the hiring.
"[The conference] created an awareness for them," she said.
Another goal of the conference was to sensitize the guests to the frustration that most Black coaches and athletic administrators face in the pursuit of a career in college sports. …