Report: Advancement for Black Football Coaches Tied Heavily to Diverse Contacts

In the world of college football coaching, it’s not just “who you know” and how well you know them that factor in career advancement opportunities but what’s their race, according to a new study by North Carolina State University researchers.

 White college football coaches who have a number of  “strong social ties” and a mostly White network tend to succeed in securing new jobs. Black coaches generate no such benefit from same-race networks, according to a study on assistant football coaches’ social networks published in Sociological Spectrum.

 The findings in “Not So Fast, My Friend: Social Capital and the Race Disparity in Promotions Among College Football Coaches” help explain the relationship between networking and the low number of African-Americans in head coaching positions.

 Networking with coaches in a position to help aid career advancement is essential for assistant coaches with higher aspirations, but the types of networks explain why some coaches have better success than others in securing promotions.

 “For White males, (same-race) connections provide access to ‘old-boy’ networks, which facilitate entry into high-level positions,” says the study conducted by NCSU doctoral student Jacob C. Day and assistant sociology professor Dr. Steve McDonald. “Whereas, (same-race) ties do not aid in the advancement of disadvantaged groups because they do not connect women and minorities to these high-level positions.”

 “What a lot of us try to do is help out our friends to get these kinds of opportunities. The problem is that White individuals have better influence and more opportunities than Black networks,” McDonald said in an interview.

 The data used in the analyses came from a 2002 survey of 320 assistant coaches (218 Whites and 102 Blacks) that asked about professional playing and coaching experience, education, and years employed in their athletic department. Entering the 2009 season, when Day and McDonald wrote the report, only seven of the 119 Football Bowl Subdivision programs had Black head coaches. (Since then, four Black coaches have been hired.)

 About 39 percent of White coaches surveyed said they had no Black contacts, according to the study. It found that Black coaches, however, need to have a diverse network of colleagues, even if the connections are weak, allowing them to have a broader range of potential opportunities.

 “Black coaches seem to [succeed] from a more diverse set of contacts, and White coaches seem to [succeed] from a less diverse set of contacts,” Day said. But “White contacts are associated with better outcomes and more promotions.”