Coaches Cornered: The 1997 Racial Report Card; the Future of African American Football Coaches May Fall Victim to the Assault on Affirmative Action

By Farrell, Charles S. | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 16, 1998 | Go to article overview

Coaches Cornered: The 1997 Racial Report Card; the Future of African American Football Coaches May Fall Victim to the Assault on Affirmative Action


Farrell, Charles S., Black Issues in Higher Education


The future of African American football coaches may fall victim to the assault on affirmative action

In this year's pursuit of head coaching positions at NCAA Division I-A institutions, college sports' top competitive classification, Black coaches once again have found themselves shut out -- an outcome that leaves many pondering just what to do to correct the situation.

And to make matters worse, the dismissal of three Black head football coaches -- Ron Dickerson at Temple University, Ron Cooper at the University of Louisville, and Matt Simon at the University of North Texas -- reduced the number of African American head coaches among the 112 Division I-A football institutions to five. This in a sport where 46 percent of the student athletes are Black.

In fact, a total of only fourteen African Americans have ever held the position of head football coach at Division I-A institutions.

"This is deplorable," says Rudy Washington, executive director of the Black Coaches Association (BCA) -- which has been working for a decade to improve the numbers of Black coaches, particularly in head coaching positions. "It is getting to be a situation where Black football coaches are used to recruit college athletes but are not used to run the teams -- and that is disturbing. We are going to sit down and have a meeting shortly to try to develop a strategy."

Alex Wood, vice president of the, BCA and the head football coach at James Madison University (JMU), was equally dismayed at the lack of hiring of Black head coaches in the division, noting that over a two-year span there have been thirty-five such openings and only one Black hire. There were nine openings this year.

"My immediate reaction this year is the same as last year when there were twenty-six openings and one hiring," Wood says. "There are obviously no concerns about hiring Black head coaches in I-A.

"I think it is because there is no external policing [forcing institutions] to do the right thing anymore," he explains. "Affirmative action is no longer enforceable, and it is a thing of the past. No one is feeling a sense of urgency for giving opportunities. They're saying, `Let's stay in the comfort zone with our hiring practices.'"

According to Wood, the situation becomes more appalling in light of the extensive lobbying the BCA has conducted with those who do the actual hiring -- college presidents and athletic directors.

"We did as much as anybody to bring this to light by way of the media, with seminars, and invitations to our convention to try to break the ice," says Wood. "But the ice is much thicker than we thought."

While lamenting the loss of Dickerson, Cooper, and Simon, Wood promised that the BCA would address the situation. He would not, however, reveal any potential plans the association is considering.

"Any movement is dramatic," observes Wood. "We could all get wiped out in a year, but that is the nature of [who] we are as minorities. We are minorities in a society and minorities in a profession. But we are not going to make a knee-jerk reaction. When one gets a job, they have to produce. Nothing is guaranteed. College coaching -- coaching, in general -- is a volatile profession."

Missing Invitations

Also working on ways to increase the number of Black head football coaches is the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, chaired by Charles Whitcomb of San Jose State University (SJSU).

"Obviously, we are not making the kind of progress we should be making," the faculty athletics representative at SJSU says. "There are qualified Black coaches out there [who] should be considered for various positions.

"There will be continued effort out of our committee; we're not giving up. We're going to have to try to address this at different levels because what we are doing so far has not made a significant impact or difference," continues Whitcomb. …

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