Black coaches decry a dearth of opportunities
The mood was somber in Atlanta at the recent meeting of the 3,000-member Black Coaches Association (BCA). Most of the group's members are college coaches, so naturally many of the inequities discussed at the meeting were ones occurring at that level. For example, the BCA drafted a resolution opposing new NCAA regulations that would reduce the number of college assistant coaches as of August 1992. The BCA members reasoned that the cuts will be disproportionately felt by black assistants, who are, as Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson put it, "low man on the totem pole."
But the NFL came in for attention too. Although commissioner Paul Tagliabue deserves plaudits for hiring blacks to fill responsible positions in the league office—including Harold Henderson as executive vice-president of labor relations, Leo Miles as a supervisor of officials, and Reggie Roberts as the director of information for the NFC—his example has not been followed by the clubs.
While there were 52 black coaches in the NFL last season (up from 14 in 1981), these included just one head coach, the Los Angeles Raiders' Art Shell, and three offensive or defensive coordinators. (Jimmy Raye was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, Terry Robiskie the offensive coordinator for the Raiders, and Ray Sherman the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Only Robiskie returns this season as a coordinator.) In a league in which an increasing number of quarterbacks are black, there are no black quarterback coaches. Only 15 of the 28 teams in the league had more than one black assistant on their staffs in 1990.
Tony Dungy, the Kansas City Chiefs' secondary coach, who is black and is entering his 11th season as an NFL assistant, said at the meeting, "It seems people feel that once they get one [black coach], there's no need for another. It's like, 'Well, we feel we've done our job. We've reached our quota.' "
The few black coaches there are in the league tend to be assigned to coach receivers, running backs and defensive backs, positions dominated by blacks. Raye, who is now the passing-game coach for the Los Angeles Rams and has been an assistant in the NFL for 14 seasons, says, "To be a coordinator, and thus a candidate for a head coaching job, you've got to be the guy running the seven-on-seven [passing] drills. The further removed you are from that, the further removed you are from the opportunity [for a head coaching job in the NFL]."
Raye has been interviewed five times for head coaching jobs. He said that four were "affirmative action-type" interviews, meaning he felt he had no real shot at those jobs. In fact, no blacks were interviewed for any of the five head coaching vacancies in the NFL this off-season. As another of the league's black executives, David Cornwell, the NFL's assistant counsel and director of equal employment, said, "The denial of opportunities has nothing to do with ability."
Floyd Patterson's son is a featherweight contender
Before his scheduled 10-round bout against Francisco Ortiz at the Granit Hotel in Kerhonkson, N.Y., last Friday night, featherweight Tracy Harris Patterson sat in his dressing room and had his hands taped by his manager, trainer and adoptive father, Floyd Patterson. Both were silent as Floyd, the two-time heavyweight champion, now 56, did the wrapping. Then Floyd said, "How does it feel?"
That's a question Floyd hasn't had to ask his son very often. Floyd knows how it feels to be a loner in a large family, to be seeking purpose through boxing. He felt lost in a family of 11 children when the late trainer Cus D'Amato took him in, in 1950. That's why he opened his arms to Tracy 15 years ago, when the 70-pound 11-year-old started haunting his gym in New Paltz, N.Y. "He never said anything," says Floyd, "but he showed up seven days a week and hung around after everyone else had left. He was so much like I had been, I just fell in love with him."