Air Force Coach Under Fire for Comments on Minority Players

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.

Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry, expressing frustration Tuesday with the
Falcons’ slumping performance, attributed the latest loss in part to
No. 20 TCU’s having more Black players who “can run very, very well.”

DeBerry, in his 22nd year at the Air Force Academy, first mentioned the
academy’s lack of minority players compared to other schools while
talking to reporters Monday.

He said Air Force needed to recruit faster players. “We were looking at
things, like you don’t see many minority athletes in our program,”
DeBerry told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

When questioned about the remarks during his weekly luncheon Tuesday, the coach didn’t hesitate to elaborate.

“It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very,
very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents
can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me they run extremely well,”
DeBerry said in remarks first broadcast Tuesday night by KWGN-TV in
Denver.

Academy officials released a statement saying they were aware of the remarks.

“We cannot comment further until we have a chance to review all the
reports, the coach’s actual statements and to speak with the coach
personally,” academy spokesman Lt. Col Laurent Fox said.

DeBerry, 67, is the winningest coach in service academy history with an
overall record of 161-94-1. He has led 17 teams to winning seasons and
12 have captured bowl titles.

This season, though, the Falcons are struggling. DeBerry is facing the
prospect of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since
becoming coach in 1984.

Air Force lost 48-10 to TCU Saturday, dropping to 3-5 overall and 2-4 in the Mountain West Conference.

DeBerry found himself at the center of a controversy last year, too. He
hung a banner in the locker room that read in part “I am a member of
Team Jesus Christ” a day after the academy’s superintendent announced
the school would do more to fight religious intolerance.

The coach also dropped his traditional pre- and post-game prayers.

Claims that chaplains and some academy leaders impose their
conservative Christian beliefs on others prompted an investigation by
the Air Force, which concluded there was no overt religious
discrimination at the school near Colorado Springs but found some cases
of insensitivity.

The Air Force issued new guidelines on religion in August, but an
academy graduate filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the school’s
leaders fostered an environment of intolerance.

The complaints that some cadets and faculty are evangelizing others
follow a sexual assault scandal that shook the academy two years ago
when female cadets said commanders punished them when they report
assaults. The Air Force replaced the academy’s top commanders and put
new policies in place.

— Associated Press



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