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Perspectives: A Different Kind of March Madness

Now that March Madness has come and gone, a different kind of “madness” begins — filling the numerous coaching vacancies that pop up every off-season. Several collegiate head coaches, both male and female, have resigned, retired or gotten fired, opening the door for assistant coaches to pursue an opportunity to become a head coach.

Several Division I basketball programs are in the market for new head coaches. Men’s basketball teams at the University of Kentucky, the University of Michigan and the University of South Florida, among others, are, for the moment, leaderless. For the women, head coaching vacancies remain at the University of Texas, the University of Florida, Louisiana State University and several others. Filling these vacancies is a monumental task for the individual institution’s athletic directors. It requires careful consideration of the qualifications of the individual and determining who would be the best “fit” for their respective programs. 

How many of the candidates for these open positions will be Blacks or other minorities? Will they make the short list? Will they make any list at all? How many Blacks will even be interviewed for at least one of these jobs? Will athletic directors simply move the prior head coach’s son into the vacant position — as was the case with Drake University — or will they promote from within and avoid posting a vacancy altogether. In some cases, an AD may simply call on a buddy in the profession and get a name without posting a vacancy or conducting a search.

The Black Coaches Association recently expanded its highly regarded Hiring Report Card to include hiring trends for Division I women’s basketball head coaches and ADs. The purpose of the report card is to evaluate how universities structure their hiring and search processes. The evaluations are based on five categories, including contact with the BCA during the hiring process, efforts to interview candidates of color and adherence to institutional affirmative action hiring policies.

Floyd A. Keith, executive director of the BCA explains: “the BCA HRC, coupled with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is a component of accountability, and this instrument is the only accountability currently in place to bring to light the degree of inclusiveness and diversity within the search process utilized by the institutions.”

The BCA’s efforts to provide ADs with a list of qualified male and female coaches for these positions is a major step in getting these coaches interviewed and potentially hired. The BCA recommends strong consideration of the candidates and not just lip service or a token visit to meet NCAA or BCA policy requirements. If universities are truly committed to diversity, contact with the BCA will prove to be a valuable tool in their search for a new head coach.

There are many qualified minority assistant coaches, both male and female, who have the requisite coaching abilities, leadership, communication and fiscal skills to become a head coach. As the coaching carousel continues to revolve, how many assistant coaches will dance their way into one of the vacancies? Only time will tell. Get your grade book out, BCA.

—      Dr. Vicki A. Williams is an assistant professor in adult and higher education, with an emphasis in intercollegiate athletics administration, at the University of Oklahoma.

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