Improving Minority Coaching Opportunities

By Staff

Coaching Management, 12.4, April 2004,

As the scarcity of African American head coaches in NCAA Division I-A football receives increased attention, the NCAA and the Black Coaches Association (BCA) continue taking steps in an attempt to improve the situation. In January 2003, the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee (MOIC) received a $180,000 NCAA grant to start the NCAA Coaches Academy, which is designed to strengthen the qualifications of minority coaching candidates.

"Too many times, I hear that minority candidates don’t have the necessary skills to become successful head coaches," MOIC Chair Eugene Marshall Jr., Director of Athletics at Ramapo College, said in The NCAA News. "The Coaches Academy will close the gap in the excuse-making business."

A year later, with an additional $70,000 from the NFL, the NCAA officially launched its Coaches Academy at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Orlando, Fla. Organized with the support of the AFCA and BCA, the Coaches Academy is structured in three tiers:

• The Advanced Coaching Program—offered to 20 current minority coaches with at least four years of coaching experience—focuses on communication skills, interview preparation, fund-raising, budgeting, academic issues, and ethical considerations.

• The Expert Coaching Program—aimed at 10 current coaches with at least six years of experience—is designed to develop innovative coaching approaches, strengthen coaches’ relationships with players, introduce new game strategies, provide game-day coaching skills, and address off-field concerns. The first session will be conducted in conjunction with the BCA convention in June 2004.

• The Executive Coaching Program is a year-long program that sets up mentoring relationships between five selected coaches and veteran high-profile head coaches.

At January’s three-day Coaches Academy, 20 coaches attended workshops on public speaking, rules compliance, fiscal management, and ways to build relationships with alumni, supporters, administrators, and presidents.

"It was an unbelievable experience for me," says attendee Rubin Stevenson, Head Coach at Frostburg State University. "It was a great opportunity to network with all these individuals, and the clinicians were very good at talking about how we can present ourselves in a professional manner and the best ways to approach the media. I gained a lot of confidence and a lot of knowledge."

"It was very beneficial to meet with athletic directors in a casual setting and gain some insight from their perspectives," agrees Buzz Preston, Assistant Coach at Notre Dame. "Success comes from getting people to know you and making sure you’re prepared when an opportunity comes. If you can learn from these different perspectives, it can only enhance your opportunities in the future."

Emphasizing the importance of continued professional development, both Stevenson and Preston encourage coaches to attend the next academy, which will be held in January 2005. By then, the BCA will have announced the initial results of its latest campaign to increase the number of minority head coaches in Division I.

Stepping up its efforts to raise the accountability of colleges and universities, the BCA announced plans to issue an annual "hiring report card" starting in October. "For the first time in the history of intercollegiate athletics, we will have a systematic mechanism to hold people accountable for the hiring process," says C. Keith Harrison, Director of the Paul Robeson Research Center for Academic and Athletic Prowess at the University of Michigan, who was awarded a three-year research grant from the BCA to study the hiring process for Division I head football coaches. "The scores will make people more aware and institutions more accountable."

Division I schools with head football coach openings from 2004-06 will be graded on:

• The number of times they contact the BCA, with an A for four contacts, a B for three, a C for two, a D for one, and an F for none.

• The effort to interview candidates of color, based on the proportion of interviews given to minority candidates, with 40 percent or higher counting as an A.

• The diversity of the hiring process, based on the proportion of minority members on the search committee, with 26 percent or higher counting as an A.

• The length of the search process, with two weeks or longer counting as an A.

• Adherence to the school’s affirmative action hiring policies, with an A for full compliance, B, C, and D for partial compliance, and an F for total non-compliance.

The BCA plans to issue report cards for three years, by which time it hopes to see that 20 percent of head coaching opportunities have been filled by African Americans. "We’re trying to make the hiring process inclusive," says Floyd Keith, Executive Director of the BCA. "If athletic directors follow the criteria for what we feel is the proper way to conduct an inclusive and diverse search, a reasonable number of minority candidates will surface and a good candidate will come through.

"We’re creating the environment for progress to take place," continues Keith. "The grades will speak for themselves."