VETTEL: Shannon Hiring a Very Small Step

When the University of Miami promoted Randy Shannon from defensive coordinator to head coach it generated attention in a number of ways. First, it showed Miami was willing to take a chance on a guy who had never been a head coach even though the last time they did that Larry Coker flamed out after a phenomenal start.

The hiring of Shannon also made the 40-year-old the sixth black head coach among the 119 Division One-A football programs. For a sport where 45 percent of the student-athletes are black, that’s just disgraceful.

I know some people hate talking about race and college athletics. It may make some uncomfortable, it may embarrass others but it’s an important component of intercollegiate athletics that gets far too little scrutiny.

The University of Central Florida has concluded a study that shows how pitiful the representation of blacks at the highest level of college sports really is. There are eleven conference commissioners in Division 1-A, and all are white males. Only 16 of the 119 Athletic Directors are black.

Even in basketball, which has a far better track record the numbers are not very impressive. About 25 percent of Division 1 men’s basketball head coaches are black… but 58 percent of the athletes are, too. In women’s basketball, black women hold just under ten percent of the head coaching positions, despite black women making up 44 percent of the players.

It’s About Opportunities, not Quotas

It never fails that when this issue comes up and these numbers are cited that some will accuse those “liberals” of trying to place quotas for minority hiring on the NCAA and/or its member institutions. Maybe some do feel that way, but I certainly don’t. But I do believe that the NCAA and its schools have done a horrible job of making an adequate effort towards getting minorities involved in the coaching and administration of their sports teams and programs.

Frankly, current administrators may not have much of a choice in most cases. It’s not a problem of institutional racism as much as it is a structural flaw that must be addressed at the lowest levels. Just as you cannot solve societal problems by throwing money at them, this problem must be solved at the entry level into coaching and administration.

As the NCAA has gone about the process of legislating everything from the size of media guides to the size of coaching staffs the organization has become its own worst enemy in this regard. You see, the more you limit coaching and staff positions, the more you restrict the pool of qualified newcomers entering the field. It’s time to broaden the opportunities at the beginning of professional careers and patiently wait for those efforts to deliver results.

More Coaching Jobs Needed

College football teams have the most student-athletes per coach of any squad on campus. It would be easy and affordable to go from two graduate assistant positions to a half dozen. If and when that happens you would almost certainly see more blacks enter the coaching ranks and thus move along into more and more responsible positions. You could also make the case for two more full-time positions on each staff.

Administratively, it’s time for the NCAA to authorize schools to begin mentoring program to encourage former student-athletes to explore other jobs in intercollegiate athletics. I would venture to guess that the vast majority of college athletes have no idea of the variety of career tracks there are in intercollegiate athletics. From sports information to rules compliance, facilities management and event supervision there are loads of jobs that can lead to Assistant Athletic Director status and beyond.

Doing this might cost schools a few bucks, but it clearly is in their best interests. You need more professional role models for your student-athletes, especially minority athletes who don’t encounter all that many who look like they do. Not only that, but you will find you keep more and more of your better people around the program longer. And that’s good for everyone.