By Leilana McKindra
The 2009-10 college football hiring season is ending with significant gains in opportunities for ethnic-minority coaches.
Eight Division I institutions and three Division III schools retained ethnic-minority coaches in the most recent hiring season. Those additions, combined with hires made after the conclusion of the 2008 season, bring the total of minority coaches at Division I institutions to 15 (Historically Black Colleges and Universities excluded).
That’s a sharp improvement from the recent nadir of November 2008 when just three Division I programs employed black head coaches.
The number of ethnic-minority coaches in non-HBCU college football now stands at 30, including 15 in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (13 African-Americans, one Hispanic and one Pacific Islander) and another seven in the Football Championship Subdivision (six Blacks and one American Indian).
In addition, two Division II and six Division III programs employ minority coaches at non-HBCUs.
“I used to hear from people doing the hiring, ‘We don’t know who and where they are,’ when it came to finding qualified minority candidates,” said the NCAA’s Charlotte Westerhaus, who heads the diversity and inclusion group at the national office and has spent the last five years increasing awareness and developing programming to fuel minority advancement in coaching and athletics administration.
Many of those development programs – including academies for aspiring coaches to learn the off-the-field skills required of head football coaches and to provide face time with hiring decision-makers – have helped address that claim.
Westerhaus attributed the sharp climb in the number of ethnic-minority football coaches to a sustained and emphatic call for change from a number of influential voices.
Those include the late NCAA President Myles Brand, who created the diversity and inclusion department Westerhaus oversees, and former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, who has used his high-profile status to influence decision-makers.
Westerhaus also cited collaboration among the NCAA and the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, and Black Coaches and Administrators. Those groups have supported each other’s programming, enacted policies and established practices that have boosted awareness.
“All of that has been heard and embraced by the people who make hiring decisions –athletics directors and presidents,” Westerhaus said. “It’s been strategic, deliberate, focused and continual.”
Westerhaus said the coaching academies in particular have stimulated growth.
“Once decision-makers found out who these coaches were, they recognized the common denominator that all successful coaches have – extraordinary talent, ethics and leadership,” she said. “Once they recognized that excellence was there to be had, then hires started to be made.”
While the recent success may be inspiring, Westerhaus said much remains to be done.
“We know we can do an even better job,” she said. “We can see the corner, but we have not turned it as far as reaching a critical mass of head coaches of color in football.
“We’ll have turned that corner when we are able to say that the chances of success for any individual to be a head football coach in the NCAA are equal and based on a person’s talent and opportunity.”
Confident that the Association is on the right track, Westerhaus plans to keep the momentum going by doing much of what has already proven successful. She said the NCAA must keep identifying talented coordinators and assistant coaches of color and connecting them with athletics directors and presidents.
The Association also must maintain support for the professional-development academies and forums, she said. And the NCAA should continue to applaud and support athletics directors and presidents who make the right choice of hiring diversity for excellence.
“We anticipate great success and the enhancement of success for all of our student-athletes because diversity is in the mix,” she said.