Coppin State's Fang Mitchell and UMBC's Earl Hawkins said yesterday that they will join fellow members of the Black Coaches Association in a proposed boycott of next week's National Association of Basketball Coaches' Issues Forum in Charlotte, N.C.
"I think it's the first step in getting our message across," said Mitchell, who, along with Hawkins, was to be among an estimated 100 black Division I head coaches attending the first NABC forum, a three-day meeting scheduled to begin Monday.
The message sent out this week by BCA executive director Rudy Washington and other members of his organization is clear: Recent and imminent NCAA legislation that cuts scholarship limitations, raises academic standards and sets a maximum salary for restrictive-earnings coaches at $16,000 a year reduces the opportunities black athletes have at getting a college education and prospective coaches have at pursuing their chosen careers.
According to published reports, among the other potential targets of a BCA boycott are the NCAA convention in January, the NCAA Final Four and possibly the first day of scheduled practice Nov. 1. But Southern Cal coach George Raveling said future actions will likely take place without notice.
"If we are going to war with Russia, are we going to tell them where our troops are placed?" Raveling said yesterday from Los Angeles.
Raveling, second vice president of the NABC, said that next week's boycott isn't targeted at the coaches' organization as much as at the NCAA in general and at the NCAA Presidents Commission in particular for voting in legislation that ultimately affects a large number of black athletes and coaches.
Asked why the BCA doesn't voice its concerns at the NABC forum, Raveling said: "We see the forum as an extension of a system that we have tried to work in for an extended period of time, and have failed. To continue the dialogue is an exercise in futility."
Jim Haney, the NABC's executive director, said he was told about the potential boycott by Raveling early last week. Haney, a former coach at the University of Oregon as well as a former commissioner of the Big West Conference, said he was disappointed in the BCA's decision, but fully understood its motives.
"At some point, you have to fight for what is morally right," he said.
The BCA is expressing many of the same concerns that were raised by the NABC's executive board at a news conference during last season's Final Four in New Orleans. But NABC president George Blaney, the head coach at Holy Cross, said yesterday there is a crucial difference.
"They [the BCA] view it as more of a social problem than as only a basketball problem," he said. "Maybe there's something stronger to it. It does bring more of a focus to it."
Since it was announced last year that current minimum academic standards for athletes receiving Division I scholarships were going to be raised beginning in 1995 -- from a 2.0 GPA and 700 on the SAT (or 18 on the ACT) to a sliding scale of either a 2.5 GPA or a 900 SAT score (21 on the ACT) -- coaches in general have been concerned that the talent pool as well as the product would be diminished.
Scholarships were reduced from 15 to 13 two years ago, and a recommendation to raise that limit by one will be voted upon at the next NCAA convention. Mitchell said: "In reality, we're taking away hope. When you take away hope, you're going to create a feeling of hopelessness."
"If we represent 60 to 70 percent of the basketball players, and every school has one less scholarship, then that disproportionately affects us in terms of people unable to get a scholarship," Washington told the Associated Press. "For a black person, a scholarship is a necessity, not a luxury. Therefore, it's of primary concern to us."
Said Hawkins: "Coaches have talked about these problems for years. This vehicle is the only way to bring attention to these problems."
Instead of attending next week's meeting in Charlotte, several prominent black coaches, including Georgetown's John Thompson, will meet in Washington with the Congressional Black Caucus. Dave Cawood, the NCAA's assistant executive director, said the organization would not make any official comment until further studying the issues.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the BCA also has concerns about the lack of blacks in positions of power on the NCAA's executive staff as well as on the staff of USA Basketball, the sport's national governing body. Neither organization has a black on its executive staff.
Raveling said one area that distresses him is the number of white males coaching women's college teams instead of black women. But Raveling said the problem isn't just limited to intercollegiate athletics.
"How can these people [college presidents] have a sensitivity when they have the same situations with their own faculty?" he said.
Maryland coach Gary Williams said the BCA's concerns are shared by all Division I basketball coaches. In some ways, next week's boycott and other planned actions could put old complaints in a new light.
"A lot of times in the past, when we as basketball coaches bring things up, people think we're talking about what is good for us as coaches," he said. "But this is good for the game. Maybe people don't believe that, but sometimes that's lost."