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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Dearth of black coaches offers diversity lesson

    Shurid Sencolumnist
    Shurid Sen

    There are 117 NCAA Division 1-A football programs. Annually, black athletes comprise between 45 and 50 percent of the approximately 10,000 available roster spots.

    However, despite the heavy participation of blacks at the player level, a mere three black head coaches were employed in college football last season.

    Three out of 117?

    Yes, you read that correctly, but go ahead and read it one more time, just to digest the full importance of that statistic. If it seems unimportant to you, you may be unwittingly – or worse yet, purposefully – contributing to the bigotry that still dramatically divides our society. Unfortunately, many seem to think that this is a bygone period in American history. It isn’t.

    In January, Ron Prince of Kansas State University and Turner Gill of the University at Buffalo joined the embarrassingly minuscule fraternity of black college head coaches that includes UCLA’s Karl Dorrell, University of Washington coach Ty Willingham and Mississippi State University’s Sylvester Croom.

    That statistical anomaly underscores a larger, more worrisome social problem. While it is acceptable for teams to be filled with black players, leadership and decision-making positions consistently remain out of reach.

    It is a problem that affects football in a way not seen as dramatically in other major sports. In contrast, black coaches head 28 percent of Division 1-A basketball programs, including four at Pacific 10 Conference schools. The NFL had a similar problem, and the implementation of the “”Rooney Rule”” two years ago, which requires the interview of at least one minority head-coaching candidate, has helped. Since then, the number of black head coaches has increased to six of 32, up from two.

    However, the implementation of a similar rule at the college level, as Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood put it, “”would be inappropriate.”” Considering that the athletic department is required to follow the same affirmative action guidelines that the rest of the university must adhere to, that’s a valid assessment.

    While selecting the most qualified person for any job is critical, systemic discrimination cannot be ignored, and can only be addressed by concerted efforts to exterminate both conscious and subconscious racism.

    Livengood, as well as other NCAA brass, has expressed concern over the pathetic state of diversity in the coaching ranks, and the need to address the issue rather than ignore it, as has been done for so long.

    “”We’ve made a very concerted effort to create a diverse staff, but I don’t feel like we’re where we need to be,”” he said.

    The UA football program went through a search a little over two years ago to replace disgraced coach John Mackovic. Three of the final five candidates were minorities, according to Livengood.

    While no minority head coach was chosen, coach Mike Stoops’ selection of a diverse assistant coaching staff was a step in the right direction, especially considering the lack of minority assistant coaches at other 1-A institutions. Out of 241 combined offensive and defensive coordinators nationally, only 24 are black, an alarming number considering it is often the pool from which the next generation of head coaches is selected.

    The lack of opportunity for blacks and other minorities in the upper echelon of any profession is deeply troubling, especially since many opponents of affirmative action claim that minorities have already had sufficient help to compete with their white counterparts.

    In reality, the process has only just begun, as is highlighted by the lack of opportunities even within a social setting traditionally dominated by blacks. What, then, for areas of society that are only now witnessing the first influx of minorities?

    While selecting the most qualified person for any job is critical, systemic discrimination cannot be ignored, and can only be addressed by concerted efforts to exterminate both conscious and subconscious racism.

    “”I think often we’re too easy on ourselves to say that time will take care of it,”” said Livengood about the dearth of minority coaches. “”We must be diligent in regards to gender and race.””

    Vigilance against complacency in regard to equality is key. Those who think the problem is nonexistent are perpetrating a form of racism, ignorant of their own participation in and compliance with an uneven social structure.

    Shurid Sen is a political science and economics junior. He can be reached at

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