Football Issues: Coaches So White?

Is it time for Football #CoachesSoWhite?

Happy Jackie Robinson Day! 

I want to personally say thanks to Ken Burns and everyone who took the time to put out the amazing two-part PBS special on Jackie Robinson this week (I know they don't care, but I still want to tip my cap in their direction). In my opinion, Mr. Robinson was one of the most important historical figures of the last century.

As I have mentioned before, I have noticed myself becoming increasingly conflicted over the sport of football for a number of reasons of late. From time to time, I am going to publish an opinion piece like this one as I start to come to grips with my own feelings on why football is bothering me. Consider it my own form of football talk therapy.

This week I am talking about the racial disparity in hiring NCAA football coaches.

The NCAA and Coaching

One of the things that Jackie Robinson fought for was minority inclusion in the coaching ranks in sports. 

Oddly enough, aside from some studies and a few news reports, when we hear about the NCAA we rarely hear about the hiring issues in coaching. So, is there a problem? Are we living up to Jackie's hopes for a more diverse coaching universe?

Again, I am choosing to focus on football because I am trying to explain the reasons I have started to experience cognitive dissonance around my love of the sport.

Breaking Down Some Concepts 

There are three concepts I want to address later, so I will operationally define them here:

1. "Structural Racism"

What this means is that there is racism built into our supposedly "merit-based" and fair systems. One great indicator of the existence of structures of racism are statistical representations in an area, like say hiring, much lower than the rates of participation by people of color.

Another pretty great indicator would be rates of racial hiring that are statistically lower than the percentage of that particular race in the general population. 

Remember, that while race does not exist biologically, and we aspire to move beyond race and racism, race does exist as a socially constructed reality for many people of color. In other words, the science doesn't matter much in the face of being called names or while being denied a job.

2. "Unconscious Racism"

We call racism unconscious when we find it in places where it has become so normalized and seamless that we don't even notice it anymore. A good example of unconscious racism is found in the Arizona (white) retirees keep voting for Joe Arpaio despite his racist policing, it has become so normal to them that they think of Sherrif Joe as a hero (instead of as the villain he is). 

3. Privilege

Privilege is not necessarily about race but often is. Every person on planet earth is the beneficiary of certain advantages over other people (like Tom Cruise is better looking than me - he is genetically privileged).

Privilege becomes problematic when it is unfair and preventable. For instance, I gained HUGE benefits from growing up in neighborhoods with good tax bases. While Federal and State dollars are provided for education, most schools are primarily funded through local tax dollars. If you live in a good neighborhood, you will have the "privilege" of attending better preparatory schools. 

After Brown vs. Board of Education, many white people relocated from areas with large minority communities (white flight). The end result of this relocation for inner-city people of color was devastating to their tax base and therefore to their preparatory schools. 

Obviously, many successful parents of color were able to relocate as well, but for the people left behind it created a pretty demonstrative educational gap. The children of those white families that relocated (or sent their kids to private schools after Brown) benefit from the privilege of better education. 

To read a wonderful sociological study that explores all of the statistical proofs of the structural racism, unconscious racism, and privilege left in the wake of White Flight, I suggest the book American Apartheid.  

Are You Serious? NCAA Football's "Coach" Problem

Cutting to the chase these stats are from the NCAA Racial and Gender Report Card (2015):

* African Americans represent approximately 17.9% of the population in this country (as of 2015).

* African Americans represent approximately 53.4% of the population of college football players (as of 2015).

* There are 13 Division 1 "Head Football Coaches" who are African American out of the 128 possible teams available in that division (10.2%)

And this is not a new issue, the very first SEC (most powerful and successful conference in the country) African American head coach ever was hired in 2003 (he was let go several years later but they currently have 2 of 13 African American coaches).

What is new is how little anyone seems to care. This is an example of clear structural racism that has become nearly and clearly unconscious. It would be nearly impossible in the face of this evidence to suggest that white coaches to not enjoy racial privilege in terms of hiring (and statistics also bear out that they get more opportunity and better wages as well).

Unless you believe that for some reason Black people are less capable of coaching football than white people? 

If you do believe in genetic differences in mental capacity based on race, there is not much I can do to help with that except to say that what you believe is gross and entirely scientifically invalid. 

Maybe like we had #OscarsSoWhite we need to start #CoachesSoWhite (feel free to appropriate that hashtag).

Want more proof this has become so seamless as to become mostly unconscious? I did a Google News Search on "NCAA Football" these are the issues  that came up in the last month:

* EA Sports payouts for NCAA Football Video Games

* Satellite Camps for potential football recruits

* Electronic player health monitors

* The NCAA deciding to allow no "new" bowl games

* CF Players being paid 

* CF Players earning a percentage of likeness fees

* Limitations on texting between coaches and recruits

* Banning former players from being on staff (Marcus Lattimore)

* Is it worth the money to hire "search firms" for CF hiring

* CF Player early enrollment

* Sexual Assaults (should be on list for sure)

* Transfer rules

* Unlimited texting b/w recruits and other recruits

Doesn't seem like hiring equity is very high on the national priority or discussion list to me. Did I miss something?

The answer is pretty simple, the 86.7 of white Athletic Directors should start using diversity as a hiring guideline and seriously investigate their current "merit" and "interviewing" standards.

 If we really care about Jackie Robinson's legacy, maybe we should pay more attention to the issues that he cared about? Just saying.

You might be wondering how Jim Harbaugh feels about this, I honestly don't know, but he probably would look at me like this if I asked him.

What do you think of the lack of diversity in College Football Coaching? As long as you are civil, I will absolutely listen to your point of  view on this and most other issues, in other words, leave a comment!