Saturday, November 22, 2008

Black Coaches' Media Coverage Blown Out of Proportion?

You probably expected to see me write about today's matchup between my Virginia Tech Hokies and the Duke Blue Devils. If VT wins, all they have to do is beat UVA next week to clinch a spot in the ACC's title game in Tampa Bay. But just as I'm pretty confident in the Hokies, I'm less confident in some of the reporting I hear coming out of the sports world lately. It seems as though every single year, the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) releases the same report highlighting the lack of minorities in college football head coaching spots. And every time they do, we see irresponsible journalism that blows everything way out of proportion.

So is the lack of minorities in coaching really a big deal? Now, I realize that racism still exists in the United States of America, regardless of who we recently elected president. But do the BCA and most of the media outlets really think we'll buy that everyone out there who has gone through the hiring process for college football coaches is a racist? Let's look at some numbers and try to figure this whole thing out.

With the recent firings of Ty Willingham at Washington and Ron Prince at Kansas State, the number of black head coaches in the 119-school NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision now stands at four, down from eight in 1997 (the highest in history). Since 1996, 12 black coaches have been hired for 199 jobs. So, as it stands, only about 3 percent of head coaches are black, which is much less than the 12-percent number of blacks in the U.S. as a whole. No, the number of black head coaches is not representative of U.S. population.

But,
the number of assistant coaches in college football comes out to about 25 percent, well over-represented. And you don't hear anyone complaining that 55 percent of all student athletes are minorities, about 50 percent of which in college football are black, a good 38-percent over-representation. Where is the White Players Association calling for more white players on the rosters (74 percent of America is white)? And oh, by the way, black players make up 77 percent of the rosters in college basketball. WPA? Well, that'd be "racist" to even have such an organization, now wouldn't it?

As for some of the black coaches who have been dismissed lately, FOX Sports correspondent Jason Whitlock (a black man) writes that black coaches just are not doing a good job at picking the right jobs that they are ready for.

Now, I hope you don't consider me racist just for bringing up this whole issue, but I think it warrants more discussion outside the realm of the traditional media and the spin of organizations such as the BCA. Why is it not possible that schools are simply interviewing candidates and hiring the people they feel are most-qualified for the job? I'm more than willing to admit that the large number of black athletes in college sports are there because they have worked hard to become better in their respective sports than the white athlete who might have been given the scholarship instead. And, with all of the black assistant coaches out there, I think it's only a matter of time before we see many more black coaches rising up through the ranks for head-coaching positions. There are plenty of blacks and other minorities out there who deserve coaching jobs and who will get them when they are a better candidate than someone else who interviews for the job. Do athletic programs really see color, or do they see recruiting and wins?

I guess the thing that really set me off the most about this was ESPN's very own John Saunders. During an athletic event I watched on ESPN, they had a poll that asked, "Should colleges be forced to interview/hire a minority coach?"

When the response was a resounding 78 percent "no," Saunders seemed puzzled and said he couldn't understand that vote because "we just elected a black president."

That's where I just didn't get it. How do the two things really even relate? I don't think many Americans, myself included, voted for Barack Obama because he is black. But, I do think the fact that we as a country were willing to elect Obama shows that there really (while I think some does still exist in narrow-minded areas of the country) is not a sense of racism in America overall. The results of this poll don't show a racist America. They show an America that still believes in a level playing field, but not one that thinks opportunity should be a mandate for everyone, regardless of actual performance.

My belief is that the people doing the hiring at college football programs are not racists, and that they are giving anyone who interviews an equal shot at the job. But I think our country has much bigger things to worry about than how many minorities are in head-coaching positions. I think the media has blown this whole thing way too far out of proportion in comparison to some other big things that are happening right now with war and the economy.

And, I think the coverage is also irresponsible because it has failed to address the numbers on the opposite sides of head coaching for assistant coaches and athletes, and no one really ever mentions representation as a whole out of the total population of the U.S. or of individual schools. Take my school, Virginia Tech, where less than 5 percent of students are black in the first place. About two percent of the football coaching staff is black (two out of 10). These numbers seem a little easier to swallow, so perhaps the issue should be looked at on a school-by-school basis? I also dislike that there is so much focus on "black" coaches, but you rarely hear mention of other minorities. Where are the Asians, Hispanics, homosexuals and women in head coaching positions?

I'd be interested in hearing what everyone else out there thinks about this issue and the coverage it has received. I think we can all agree that minorities are under-represented in head-coaching spots. But, they are well-represented in almost every other aspect of athletics, and I truly feel that minorities are not being hired as head coaches simply based on their resumé, not the color of their skin.

Note: Numbers/statistics for this blog post were compiled from multiple sources, including FOX Sports, ESPN, Virginia Tech Athletics, The Roanoke Times, Rivals and the U.S. Census Bureau.

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