Exhibiting class in touchy minority hiring issue

October 21, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

The hiring practices in college football got yet another lousy grade from the Black Coaches and Administrators (formerly known as the Black Coaches Association) in the group's latest report card, released this month. The bad marks on the fourth annual report were accompanied by the strongest implication yet, from executive director Floyd Keith, that the only way to resolve this sorry situation is in court.

Yet last week at ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor, there was evidence that fairness in hiring might be achieved without lawsuits. It came from Army athletic director and BCA member Kevin Anderson, who said the small but growing number of people of color in college athletic administrative positions is nudging the sport in the right direction.

Too bad, in a way. The numbers are pathetic: In all of Division I, excluding historically black colleges, there are 12 nonwhite head coaches at 241 programs this season, and only two were hired in the past 35 opportunities. That especially stinks compared with every other sport at virtually every level, so much that even the threat of taking the issue to court is deliciously tempting.

The committee that compiled this year's report certainly thought so: The last two pages lay out the legal implications of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (you might be familiar with the impact Title IX has had on sports the past quarter-century or so). In other words, the BCA has the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on speed dial, just in case.

But, Anderson said at Thursday's Patriot League basketball media day at the sports bar, there's no need to go that far until recent meetings among black athletic directors, NCAA officials (such as president Myles Brand) and other college sports executives and organizations get a chance to bear fruit.

"We're feeling very confident in what we've done," Anderson said, "in coming together, talking about issues, bringing Dr. Brand in to hear us and to discuss with us, to getting more exposure to people and getting people in positions to do the hiring and improve the numbers."

Last summer - not long after BCA changed its name to reflect the increase in administrators of color and the need to increase those numbers as much as the coaches' - the 13 athletic directors in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) met with each other. (Two of them, coincidentally, were at ESPN Zone on Thursday, Anderson and Keith Gill, in his first year at American.) They then set up meetings with other national organizations such as the NCAA and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.

The main reason, simply put, was to network. And to make sure those they were networking with knew who they and their colleagues were, and how ready they were to move up, after all the time and resources the BCA and other groups had put into preparing candidates for those jobs.

"The point was to bring all these talented people out and let them know the athletic directors, the school presidents," Anderson said. "People hire people, and you really only hire people you know."

So this tactic runs along parallel tracks: eliminating the excuse that the decision-makers don't know where to find qualified coaches, administrators or both and taking that power out of the hands of people who lean on that excuse, putting it into the hands of people of color themselves.

It's only what was done years ago, even decades ago, in other sports, such as college basketball, where the BCA report card pointed out that 58 percent of the players and 25 percent of the coaches are nonwhite. In football, the corresponding numbers are 49 percent and 5 percent in the Bowl Subdivision.

It would almost be considered the pimple on the gorgeous face of college football this season, except that two of the upsets that have defined this year were engineered, respectively, by Ron Prince at Kansas State (over Texas) and Randy Shannon at Miami (over Texas A&M), two of the seven minority coaches in the top division this season.

With all the reasons to not be truly inclusive in hiring in college football being peeled away every day (except for "social injustice," the BCA report jabbed), what is left is finding a way to fix it. The legal path is the sexy one. But, Anderson said, "with what we're looking at, what we're doing collectively in bringing everyone together, that's a last resort."

The powers that be should be glad that their colleagues of color are taking the high road.

And they'd better hope enough movement takes place to keep them all out of court some day.

david.steele@baltsun.com

David Steele -- Points after

The numbers say that TBS' baseball postseason ratings were awful, everybody joked about never seeing the games, and yet all of America is sick to death of Frank TV. Somebody's lying. And I don't think it's the people who are sick of Frank TV.

Griping about home run trots, barking at batters over how they toss away their bat after a walk ... baseball players are getting mighty sensitive lately.

Bills fans had a much better case against Willis McGahee before the team announced that it is trying to play a preseason game in Toronto. Note to the Buffalo faithful: Bob Irsay said those games in Jacksonville and Phoenix were nothing to panic about, either.

Good thing the Orioles got rid of Leo Mazzone. If he hadn't let the pitchers keep blowing out their elbows and straining their obliques, this might have been a great staff.

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