Coaching: Colleges' (Un)level Playing Field. (Last Word)

By Hill, O. Fitzgerald; Ritter, Gary W. et al. | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

Coaching: Colleges' (Un)level Playing Field. (Last Word)


Hill, O. Fitzgerald, Ritter, Gary W., Murray, John W., Hufford, Candice M., Black Issues in Higher Education


The high-profile hiring of Tyrone Willingham as the head football coach at Notre Dame University earlier this year ended an extensive -- and controversial -- search at the prestigious institution. Although the hiring of an African American by the nation's most storied football program was significant, the total number of Black coaches in NCAA Division I-A actually decreased this past winter. In spring 2002, only 4 of 115 of head coaching positions are occupied by African Americans.

Since the conclusion of the 2000 season, there have been 34 headcoaching vacancies. Only two African Americans have been hired: Dr. O. Fitzgerald Hill at San Jose State University in 2000 and Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame in 2002.

In Division I-A football schools, there is anecdotal evidence that African American coaches perceive a glass ceiling. In general, they are relegated to non-central assistant coaching positions and then, typically only if a Black coach previously held the position. In a sport where more than half (53 percent) of the athletes are Black, African American coaches are grossly underrepresented. Fewer than 5 percent of all head coaches and just over 20 percent of all assistant coaches are African American.

In order to investigate this issue further, we conducted a study focusing on the following question: What are the perceptions of White and Black coaches regarding opportunities for African Americans in the ranks of Division I-A NCAA football coaching?

Our study employed data from a survey of 50 items related to advancement opportunities and barriers for African American coaches in NCAA football. Surveys were distributed to all assistant and head coaches -- 251 African American and 889 coaches of other ethnicities (mostly White). Surveys have been returned by 110 Black coaches and 189 White (or other) coaches. Two strong themes have emerged in the survey results: African American coaches continue to perceive inequities in the allocation of coaching opportunities in NCAA Division I-A college football, and Black coaches and White coaches clearly disagree on this issue.

Black coaches tend to argue that opportunities are not equal; they are not accepted by White coaches as equals; coaching decisions are not based on professional knowledge; Blacks interviewed and hired are "tokens"; and changes such as diversity programs are needed. …

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