Air Force Coach Under Fire
For Comments on Minority Players
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
Air Force Academy head football coach Fisher DeBerry, expressing frustration after a recent 48-10 loss to Texas Christian University, attributed the loss in part to TCU’s having more “Afro-American” players who “can run very, very well.”
DeBerry, in his 22nd year at the academy, mentioned the team’s lack of minority players during an interview with The Gazette of Colorado Springs two days after the loss. 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 paper.
The next day, during a question-and-answer session at his weekly luncheon, 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.
Days after the comments, DeBerry was reprimanded by Lt. Gen. John F. Regni, superintendent of the academy, but was not fired.
DeBerry, 67, is the winningest coach in service academy history with an overall record of 161-94-1. 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.
DeBerry found himself at the center of a controversy last year, too. The coach was instructed to remove 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 on campus. The coach has also dropped his traditional pre- and post-game prayers.
Claims that chaplains, some academy leaders and higher ranking cadets imposed their conservative Christian beliefs on others prompted an investigation by the Air Force, which concluded there was no overt religious discrimination at the school 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 religious controversy followed on the heels of a sexual assault scandal that shook the academy two years ago. The Air Force replaced the academy’s top commanders and put new policies in place after female cadets said commanders punished them for reporting assaults.
— Associated Press
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