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Black coaches convention focuses on job-hunting strategies; collegiate athletic directors, sensitized to concerns, participate in interview clinics

Concerned about the paucity of Black coaches and athletics
administrators on college campuses, the Black Coaches Association (BCA)
devoted a major portion of its annual conference, held last month in
Miami, to helping its members prepare and successfully compete for
positions in higher education.

“This was an educational conference,” said Rudy Washington,
executive director of the BCA and athletics director at Compton
Community College in California. “We have a lot of new members who need
to get job opportunities.”

BCA invited athletic directors and other college administrators to
the conference in hopes of sensitizing them to the concerns of the
association. Aside from meeting with members, the guests participated
in interview preparation clinics. However, the turnout of athletic
directors was mediocre.

“This is something we have to work on and invite them again. It was
not a good turnout, but I can’t say they’re not interested in the
issues,” said Alex Wood, vice president of the BCA and head football
coach at James Madison University. “It is a process that has to be
cultivated. Unfortunately, I am not a person who is diligent in waiting
my turn…[and] this is not where we extend an offer once and have them
come at our beck and call.”

Nevertheless, many were impressed with what they saw. Gene
DeFilippo, athletics director at Villanova University, was one of them.
After meeting with coaches – several of whom said they were “wowed” by
him – DeFilippo said that, as a result of the conference, he now knew
people whom he could recommend for jobs in the future.

“I had an absolutely enjoyable time at the BCA,” said DeFilippo. “I
met some wonderful people. It gave me a chance to… make friends with
some brilliant young coaches – guys who are right on the verge of
getting head coaching jobs.”

Becoming a Successful Candidate

According to DeFilippo, there are six important ingredients for
becoming a successful candidate for a job: hard work, smart work,
teamwork, fun, written goals, and networking.

Mary Kennard, general counsel at American University, said that good
job candidates must distinguish themselves. And unfortunately, she
added, Black candidates must be even further distinguished.

“[Black candidates] need to look at other aspects of a campus and
use that to facilitate uniqueness,” she said. “They need to serve on
university-wide committees. They need to develop financial experience,
networking, how to move projects forward. In other words, bulk up your

“It is given [that] you are already exceptional at what you do,”
Kennard continued. “That is the problem. You have to do your job and
still do more. But when you are head and shoulders above the other
candidates, then race actually gives you an extra plus.”

Vivian Fuller, athletic director at Northeastern Illinois
University, agreed that uniqueness is the name of the game for Black
coaches and sports administrators. Additionally, said Fuller – the Only
Black female to direct an athletics department at a National Collegiate
Athletics Association (NCAA) Division I institution that is not an
historically Black college or university (HBCU) – candidates need to
know the hiring practices that go on in collegiate athletics – which,
Fuller admits, is not always easy.

“It’s an uphill battle,” she said. “By the time a job opening hits
the NCAA News, it already has a name on it. We need to try to be on the
front end of this. We need to be aware of how to get the upper hand. We
need to know who sets the rules written rules and unwritten rules.”

That means doing extensive homework and figuring out how to get into
the loop, said Fuller, who praised the CBA conference for providing the
coaches with some real-life experience and guidance from the people who
do the hiring.

“[The conference] created an awareness for them,” she said.

Another goal of the conference was to sensitize the guests to the
frustration that most Black coaches and athletic administrators face in
the pursuit of a career in college sports.

“Many of these institutions may have one or maybe two African
Americans on their athletics staff,” said Fuller. “The BCA has 300 or
400 coaches or administrators complaining about many of the issues that
face them. Many are put in so-called ‘Black’ positions in compliance or
academic counseling. That can be a problem with things like burn-out,
so they need to be careful and not get African Americans in positions
where they do not benefit.”

One way to avoid the problem, suggested Fuller, is for coaches and
administrators to develop a clear agenda when they get the position.

“There is always a honeymoon – a probation where they can say, ‘This
is a great position,'” she said. “But they don’t always want the
authority to handle ‘Black problems.’ They need to take the initiative
– take the upper hand in trying to chart out their destiny – or they
could end up in one of those cloned positions that lead to nowhere.”

Widening Parameters

John J. Crouthamel, athletic director at Syracuse University, agreed.

“Most of these people are coaches whose focus was so much on
coaching that they maybe weren’t giving themselves the flexibility to
move within intercollegiate athletics,” said Crouthamel. “I found
myself coaxing them to look at sort of a broader picture than [just
being] narrowly focused.

“There are a lot more administrative positions in intercollegiate
athletics than coaching,” he continued. “The [complaint] seems to be,
‘If I don’t make it as an African American head coach, there must be
something wrong with the system.’ Maybe there would be less wrong with
the system if there were more flexibility in looking at [job]

According to Crouthamel, attempting to step up to a head-coaching
position can be particularly troublesome for assistant coaches.

“Assistant coaches who aspire to be head coaches oft times don’t
appreciate the amount of attention to detail that is absolutely
required in order to get in the pool for legitimate promotion from one
level to the next,” said Crouthamel. “I think it is that lack of
understanding and this is not directed to Blacks or whites – of how
much detail one must master, particularly in a high-profile program. If
you don’t have it, Black or white, the investment is not going to be

Then he added, “I think that in intercollegiate athletics – and it
may sound like a standard line and it is not meant to be – with the
high concentration of Blacks in certain sports, we are even more
sensitive to the issue of diversity. But having said that, the
qualifications have to be there. What is better, to have a
non-qualified person fail or a qualified person succeed? It’s obvious.
And the good people stand out whether they are Black, white or green.”

Unfortunately, a lot of capable minorities enter the “real world”
and don’t go into college athletics, according to Crouthamel, because
many of the entry-level positions are not very attractive particularly
from a salary and workload perspective.

“I think we lose a lot of very capable people from a financial
standpoint,” said Crouthamel, who also noted that in some sports – like
women’s field hockey there is literally no pool of Black candidates for

Wood, however, disagreed with Crouthamel’s notion that Blacks should
look at career opportunities in college athletics other than coaching.

“Some do want to do other things than coach,” he said. “But others
aspire only to coach. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that
goal. If a lawyer doesn’t become a judge, do you tell him to go become
a doctor? Do you say, ‘You’re no good at this?’ Most of us want to
coach and we’re not going to let anything stray us from coaching.”

Nevertheless, Wood said that having athletic directors –
particularly white athletic directors – at the conference will give the
athletic directors a different perspective. To that, Crouthamel agreed.

“We had our own agenda,” he admitted. “We didn’t show up to be nice.
We showed up because we want to be proactive. We need to get the word
out to people as to what we are looking for in terms of real detail
work, not just showing up for work. We have to look introspectively
into who they are and what they can offer, instead of just being a good
guy or a good woman. The BCA conference offers that.”

What the BCA did not offer, however, was an autumnal protest against
what the association sees as a lack of concern by NCAA officials about
problems related to the scarcity of Black coaches and athletic

“These guys were not receptive to a protest,” said Woods, who noted
that the idea was briefly discussed and then dismissed. “Nobody wanted
to hear about it.”

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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