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Making the Grade?

Making the Grade?
Black coaches issue report card on minority hiring

By Ronald Roach

Nearly two-thirds of 28 colleges got an A or B in the first Black Coaches Association “report card” that evaluated the process used to hire a new head football coach. The report looked at the schools in Divisions I-A and I-AA that had an opening for a head football coach in 2003. Eight schools received an A, nine received B’s, four got C’s, three received D’s and four were hit with F’s, according to the report.

Among the F’s, Nevada-Reno, Southern Utah and San Diego failed to provide information to the group despite being informed that it would result in a failing grade. Texas State University participated in the process but failed.

One of the 28 schools hired a Black coach — Mississippi State University, which named Sylvester Croom the first Black head football coach in the history of the Southeastern Conference (see
Black Issues, Dec. 18, 2003).

Black Issues In Higher Education spoke to Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association about the report card.

BI: How would you summarize the study and its implications?

FK: I think the study is something that the BCA has been searching for to apply to the hiring equation because we felt there was a need for accountability. And accountability in the search process is paramount because we think the search process is where the problems lie in terms of achieving diversity on the hiring level, particularly in collegiate sports.

I think that this answers our need, and I think we’ve taken great pains to put this whole process together. Actually, this was the realization of three years of careful study and evaluation. We began in 2002 by doing a summit, which was connected to our BCA Classic and that generated some great thought. We massaged it in 2003, and the final version came out in 2004.

How it has been perceived is something that would give credence to the need of the instrument because, from the schools that have received good grades, we get accolades. And from the schools that have gotten bad grades, (they say) we should have done this, we should have done that.

So it has accomplished its goal. It’s on the consciousness of all institutions that have openings. As a matter of fact, (on) every opening this year (to) late October and early November we have been contacted without having to send information to the institutions. That tells you the impact of the report card and it underscores why we have to do it. I think it’s the best instrument for inclusion. I think we have plans to proceed with this for ’05 and ’06, and we’re going to expand into the administrative level where we are going to evaluate athletic director and commissioner hires, as well as women’s basketball.

BI: How would you grade the media in evaluating and analyzing the report?

FK: Where I think the media has responsibility (is) to make the public aware of the grades and aware of the criteria, and to assist individuals who are looking to have diversity play a role in their selection of their institution or their work choice. That at least is a process that they can go to and get some kind of indication as to how that university treats African Americans.

I think it would be well advised for parents of student-athletes who are looking at a school to attend that if they have a consciousness of diversity within their home, that they draw attention to that student-athlete so he or she can evaluate diversity as well as if whether they’re going to play, whether they’re getting a scholarship, all the determining factors that go into choosing an institution.

And I think that this is where this instrument exerts its highest degree of significance. Sure, it’s important to know whether X university got an A or a B, or if it got an F or a D.

At the end of the day, the strength that the African American community has rests in the student-athletes who are representing in some of the major sports —  in terms of football, it’s over 51 percent, in (men’s) basketball, it’s close to 67 percent. And if they represent on the court those numbers, they hold a significant financial strength because it’s the quality of the teams that excel on the quality of the talent. And if we hold a high percentage of that then certainly we have a financial strength that we haven’t played.

And so, when great talent decides to make decisions based upon ethnicity and diversity at the institutions, then you are going to see changes. This has a cause and effect relationship.

BI: Can you describe what specific impact this particular report can have?

FK: I hope that more searches will follow the criteria that we evaluate them on. And I hope that we can get more institutional searches to move closer to our criteria of communication with the BCA and to diversity within the search group — so that there’s representation in the percentage of ethnic minorities that are actually given official interviews on the campus. And then, how the search is conducted in periods of time — the shorter the search the less that you can see inclusiveness because of the comfort levels of those that are involved. So expanding the time in looking at two to four weeks encourages diversity and encourages research.
And then, finally, how close the search reflects the affirmative action processes that are already in place at each NCAA institution and how close that search ties with that.
I think that when those criteria are evaluated and are measured, we start to become more consistent across the board — in athletics along with the academic — in how we choose high-profile head coaches at these institutions. I think we’re going to see more diversity.

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