Dungy Decries Lack Of Diversity On Sidelines

Tony Dungy, the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, became the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl in 2006, and he's also hailed as one of the smartest men in the game. When he talks, people listen. And when he writes about diversity on the op-ed page of The New York Times, a lot more people tune in.

In a Thursday op-ed in the Gray Lady, Dungy lamented the lack of black head coaches in the college ranks:

One would think that our universities would be leading the way in progressive thinking. You wouldn’t think that in 2009 it would be more likely for an African-American to become president of the United States than to be hired as head coach of a top-20 football program. But that seems to be the case.


With the progress that has been made in terms of diversity in politics, in other collegiate sports and in professional football — Edwards, Smith and Tomlin all got top jobs in the N.F.L.--why is college football hiring so far behind? At a seminar last spring in Indianapolis with other N.F.L. and college head coaches and university athletic directors, I asked that very question, and was enlightened by the responses of those directors. The biggest factor, they said, was the involvement of other people associated with the universities. It was not just the president and the athletic director who made the hiring decisions--alumni and boosters were involved, and the presidents often felt pressure to hire coaches the boosters would support.

Of the 120 head coaches of Division I-A teams, only seven are black. In 2007, when Duke conducted a search that resulted in the hiring of David Cutcliffe, only six teams had black head coaches, and Duke has never had a black head coach in any sport. The Blue Devils hired a white candidate, but still received an "A" for its search process from the Black Coaches & Administrators, a watchdog organization which attempts to "foster the growth and development of ethnic minorities at all levels of sports both nationally and internationally" that issues a yearly report card grading college's search processes in all sports.

According to the grading rubric, Duke had at least two communications with the BCA; 30 percent of its pool of coaches were "coaches of color"; the committee took a "reasonable" time in the search; and it abided by the University's affirmative action policies.

What does that mean? In short, Duke interviewed black candidates, but simply decided that Cutcliffe was the best man for the job. He was white, but the process was all the BCA enforced, because it feels that if more black candidates have chances to be head coaches, more will eventually be hired.

"We can't ask schools to go about hiring black coaches," Georgia Tech head basketball coach Paul Hewitt, the president of the BCA, told me last December. "I think that's unrealistic and unfair to universities. All you can hope for is to see that a search committee has diversity and the pool of candidates has diversity. If those two things happen, everyone will benefit. The schools will truly get a person who is best qualified for the job."

And that's exactly the approach Dungy advocates in his op-ed, albeit on a much more prominent stage than The Chronicle. In a short and punchy piece of writing--it weighs in at only 536 words, more than 200 words shorter than most of The Times' columnists' offerings--Dungy explores the history of diversity on the sidelines and points to successful black head coaches in the NFL, including Mike Tomlin, coach of the recently crowned Pittsburgh Steelers. He also argues that college football teams largely consist of minority athletes--in its 2006 NCAA self-study report, Duke's football team was 42 percent black--and they should be able to look up to role models of diversity.

But in the end, Dungy doesn't call for an NCAA Rooney Rule, which would require teams to interview black head coaches. He doesn't believe in "any magical formulas or special programs":

We don’t need task forces to uncover good candidates. Our universities merely need to do what’s right — hire the best candidates, regardless of race. We’ll see diversity as those minority coaches win their share of championships.


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