Colleges Showing Improvement on Hiring Minorities as Head Football Coaches, Survey Reveals

Major college football programs are making steady headway in selecting Blacks and other racial minorities for prized head coach positions, says a new survey of hiring practices issued by the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) association.

Still, it is easier to become a general in the U.S. Army than to become a major college football coach, says veteran former college football coach Floyd Keith, the group’s executive director.

“While we have made progress, is the task finished?” asks Keith, in a statement and telephone interview after the report’s release. “No, but we are headed in the right direction to eventually realize an acceptable ratio in the number of head coaches to the number of participants on the playing field,” says Keith.

The BCA survey, which studied off-season hiring of 34 major college football programs between November 2009 and October 2010, awarded letter grades based on four criteria: communications with BCA, diversity of coaching candidates, the time frame for making decisions, and diversity of search committees. It focused on schools in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Champion Subdivision (FCS).

Based on those criteria, 20 of the schools surveyed earned an “A” grade, nine earned a “B” grade, and one (an FBS school) earned a “C.” Four schools were awarded an “F’ grade, including the University of Southern California, Georgia Southern and Western Illinois. Those schools were given the low rating based on non-participation in the survey, the association said.

The BCA report found that six African-Americans were hired by the surveyed schools at the end of the year. Joining a Latino and Polynesian coach, those hires boosted the total number of major college coaches of color to 15, six more than ever before. As recently as 2007, there were only five coaches of color at Division I schools with football programs, the report said.

The BCA report cited as “critical” to its overall encouraging report the hiring of African-American head football coaches at colleges in several conferences—Kentucky in the SEC, Kansas in the Big 12, and Louisville in the Big East—that had no coaches of color as of the end of the 2009 season.

Between 1982 and 2009, there were 499 head football coach openings at FSB schools, the BCA report found. During those 27 years, 38 positions were filled by African-Americans. During the same period, the number of African-Americans participating in the football programs of the major colleges was skyrocketing. Today, approximately 46 percent of the students playing for Division I schools are students of color compared to 10 percent of coaches being people of color, the organization says.

“Our job is not finished,” Keith says, citing the gap between head coach hires and students playing. “There is still work to do,” he says, toward meeting the BCA’s goal of boosting the coaches of color to players of color ratio significantly higher and closer to the parity gains made in the hiring of major college basketball coaches. Some 31 percent of head basketball coaches are African-American and other people of color, the report says.

The overall upbeat assessment of the hiring trend was tempered somewhat by BCA’s finding that Division II and Division III FCS colleges have, in its opinion, not done well in diversity hiring of head coaches. Of the 117 predominantly White FCS schools that compete in football, seven had coaches of color, the survey said. Two coaches of color were hired over the past year at the FCS level, it says. 

The report also found a slight decline in the diversity of search committees, a drop Keith said might be attributable to the increased use of search firms instead of school committees.

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, University of Central Florida, was principal author of the BCA survey. Called the “Hiring Report Card,” it was the seventh annual report issued by the Indianapolis-based BCA.