When Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith stepped onto the field at Super Bowl XLI, many claimed the event was a step forward for minority coaches everywhere.
But while the NFL boasts six minority head coaches out of 32 teams, the NCAA lags behind with 12 minority head coaches out of 217 Division I and Division IAA teams.
To address this, each year the Black Coaches and Administrators track the football coach hiring practices of colleges across the country and rate their performances.
“We’re still in the middle of the road, and there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Floyd Keith, executive director of the BCA, said. “It’s not even close in terms of basketball and the numbers there are in the NFL; there’s something drastically wrong with that picture.”
Last week, the BCA released its report card, publicizing the practices employed by all universities with a head coaching vacancy.
In a grade given based on everything from who is interviewed to a school’s affirmative action policies, the University earned a B for the process that led to the hiring of current head coach Tim Brewster.
“Regardless of the grading or not, we wanted to look at a diverse pool of candidates, so it didn’t really change anything with the way we did it,” Tom Wistrcill, senior associate athletics director, said. “We went into it with that as a goal.”
The BCA’s grading process draws attention to something that is an issue nationwide and helps hold schools accountable, Wistrcill said.
“In general it helps all administrations across the country,” he said. “When they look at hiring, (schools) certainly pay attention to it.”
Michigan State University, the only other Big Ten school to be rated, earned an A overall, and in all categories.
The University was given an A in all categories tracked by the BCA except for its search committee, which earned an F because it was made up of less than 9 percent minorities.
While the University should be “pleased” with their grade, Floyd said the search committee is an important part of the hiring process that shouldn’t be overlooked.
“The search or the selection committee is the voice of inclusion and diversity,” Floyd said. “If it exists, then generally you’re going to be inclusive and diverse in your search.”
The University earned a passing grade from the BCA, but overall only two minorities were hired out of the 33 schools with head coaching vacancies, a reality that means there’s still work to be done, Floyd said.
“It’s like taking a river and trying to change a river’s course; that takes a lot of dredging,” he said. “The way the river’s running right now isn’t good.”
The question of how to address the lack of minority head coaches in the NCAA has become an important topic across the country.
While the NCAA is “very supportive” of the annual BCA reports, Charlotte Westerhaus, NCAA vice president for diversity and inclusion, in a conference call said the lack of results points to a shortcoming across the association.
“Everyone knows the true measure of progress; the true measure of success will be when more minorities are not merely interviewed, but actually hired as head football coaches,” she said.
The NFL has the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching positions and it might take a similar approach to level the playing field in the NCAA, Floyd said.
“Women’s basketball went on for ages, and then Title IX came along and now everything changed,” he said. “Is that what it’s going to take? Maybe so. Is it going to take a lawsuit, a version of the Rooney Rule? It can’t continue like it is.”
A collegiate version of the Rooney Rule is not likely, Westerhaus said, because it would violate schools’ institutional autonomy and some state laws that don’t allow race to play a factor in hiring processes.
“I don’t know that the report card is enough,” Floyd said. “If we’re going to keep saying, ‘God, this is really sad,’ and everybody cries for 24 hours, whoever they are, and then we move on and don’t change it, that’s not the answer.”
For now, the BCA will continue its annual reports.
As for the University, it had a strong showing in its hiring process, Floyd said.
“They got what they got; good for Minnesota,” he said. “There’s a lot more of them crying because they got an F.”