Hiring Report Card gets a C
Idea a nice start, but favorable grades on first Black Coaches report weak
Posted: Friday October 22, 2004 5:31PM; Updated: Friday October 22, 2004 5:31PM
When the Black Coaches Association sent out its first Hiring Report Card this week, I caught the favorable grades and for a brief moment wished I were back in school to ride the curve. Now, I suspect like a lot of folks, my eyes tend to glaze over when the conversation turns to statistical analysis, but rather than fall asleep I chuckled at these findings.
The idea of trying to shine light on the hiring practices for college football coaches, often the best paid on campus, is certainly noble enough. Most would agree you don't have to run with Carol Mosley Braun and Al Sharpton to realize something is out of kilter when only five of the 117 Division I-A head coaches are African-American, even though almost half of those suiting up on Saturday afternoons are black.
So the BCA, with the Paul Robeson Center for Academic and Athletic Prowess doing the heavy labor, set out to grade the hiring process of the 28 Division I-A and I-AA football programs that made coaching moves this past academic year. Schools were rated on stuff such as correspondence with the BCA during the search, percentage of minorities involved in the hiring process [but not whether any led or had key search committee roles], number of minority candidates brought on campus, length of the search and the extent to which the school followed its own affirmative action policies.
And the grades, please.
Well, suffice it to say just one of the 28 sideline gigs went to an African-American, Sylvester Croom, a sharp, no-nonsense guy with NFL ties hired for the rebuilding job at Mississippi State. That's one out of 28, or less than 4 percent -- which is virtually identical to the previous rate of four among the 117 Division I-A head jobs. So nothing changed.
"Now, one out of 28 stinks," protested Floyd Keith, executive director of the BCA. "That is not acceptable, and we're going to continue to take steps to change that number."
Tough talk, yes. But it's worth noting that the BCA's first of what presumably will be an annual Hiring Report Card fails miserably in reflecting the harsh bottom line. Only four schools were hit with a failing grade, an F. And despite all the hand-wringing, almost two-thirds of the schools received a letter grade of either A or B -- even though one of the 17 followed through with a hire.
One of two things is going on here. Either the grading criteria was drawn up by Jim Harrick Jr., the soft-touch former basketball professor at the University of Georgia, or schools gave lip service to the process and granted token interviews.
The end result is the BCA is left hyping the fact that it finally has an instrument of accountability, even if adjustments are required to make it more stringent. "We're not looking at the outcome [one hire]," Keith suggested. "That is what makes this a research design and not a quota mechanism. We theorize that over a period of time if institutions continue to follow the process quite naturally we'll have more coaches of color -- Latinos, Asians, African-Americans."
NCAA boss Myles Brand deserves credit for using his bully pulpit to speak out on the football hiring practices and working alongside the BCA. But as one of his lieutenants, Ron Stratten, points out, few minorities serve as college athletic directors and none currently is commissioner of a major conference.
The position of head football coach, though, remains one of the most segregated in college sports. Only five African-Americans at the Division I-A level and, according to the BCA, not a sideline boss at Division I-AA -- though 49 percent of the players are of color. This ratio is in stark contrast to college basketball, where African-Americans fill more than 26 percent of the head jobs and account for two-thirds of the players.
If you move the debate to the real battlegrounds, African-Americans make up 26 percent of the troops in the U.S. Army -- and 8.3 percent of the generals. "As it stands today, a candidate of color has a greater chance to be a general in the United States Army than to be named the head football coach at any Division I-A or I-AA program," said Keith, while noting West Point administrators drew a "weak C" for their recent football hiring process.
In the best of worlds, football eventually will experience the same acceptance witnessed in basketball over the past couple decades. The BCA is on record with a goal to see minorities make up 20 percent of the annual football hires. That sounds well and good, but in the meantime here's suggesting that they trash the Hiring Report Card or craft something more reflective of the athletic department culture. And rather than a shallow glimpse at only those searching for a head coach, why not a comprehensive yearly data analysis of every Division I program?
What they have now tells little more than who played nice during the hiring process, which isn't asking much in these enlightened times. Along with the head coach hiring data, a much fuller picture could be painted by detailing the minorities a program has on staff in coordinator, assistant coaching and administrative roles. The same can be said for numbers on graduate assistants, as well as the BCA and others pushing to recruit for this grunt, entry-level position.
And if the idea is to put athletic departments under public scrutiny and presumably send a message to impressionable recruits and their parents, then another pivotal component is truly missing for this conversation to be real -- inclusion of graduation rates for African-American players at the individual schools.
The report card as it is now is a nice start. Nothing more.
Mike Fish is a senior writer for SI.com.