Monday, November 23, 2009

“An Open Letter to Black Coaches and Administrators”

Dan Rooney, namesake of the "NFL's Rooney Rule," after which the BCA Hiring Report Card styles itself.

n.b. The Black Coaches and Administrators (formerly known as “The Black Coaches Association”) is a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to foster the growth and development of ethnic minorities at all levels of sports both nationally and internationally. The BCA is committed to creating a positive enlightened environment where issues can be examined closely, debated sincerely and resolved honestly. The BCA's focus involves the concerns of its colleagues in professional sports, NCAA (Division I, II, and III), NAIA (Division I and II), junior college and high school levels. The 2009 Report can be found here.

In 2006-2007, I spent a year doing research for the BCA’s Hiring Report Card, compiling information on every Division I institution that conducted a hiring search for a head football coach during the course of the year. In that year, I learned much about the information that the BCA considered and the methodology by which it evaluated these coaching searches, and in doing so, became the means by which universities’ commitment to diversity and ethical hiring practices was measured.

Though the categories evaluated do not always paint a clear picture of the efforts expended, it definitely gave university administrators an opportunity to review their processes and introduced a public sanction for those who did not. As it stands, a university cannot receive the highest score, an “A”, unless a minority candidate is invited to interview in person, which begs obvious questions – what happens if universities that are otherwise committed to diversity fail to identify minority candidates? What happens if universities that are not committed simply invite token candidates? Though I believed (and continue to believe) these questions need to be addressed and the methodology revised, I have no doubt that the BCA’s existence is a positive force in college athletics.

I want to thank Floyd Keith, the Executive Director, and Dr. Keith Harrison, the principal researcher, for the work they do with the BCA – it is crucial, was long overdue, and they are probably underappreciated for engaging in it. I know from the year that I worked with them how much goes into collecting all of the information that is used to calculate the findings.

However, as a university administrator who just participated in the BCA’s evaluations, I would be remiss if I didn’t make my objections known, for the benefit not only of Northwestern State University, but for university administrators nationwide who have been unwittingly maligned by the Hiring Report Card rubric, lest they become detractors (rather than advocates) of ethnic diversity in college athletics.

Dear BCA Administrators:

I am writing to protest the “C” grade that Northwestern State University received in the 2009 BCA Hiring Report Card.

When I submitted paperwork to the BCA for the Northwestern State University HFBC search in January 2009, I included with it a two-page letter detailing mitigating factors in our search which limited the potential for us to bring in qualified minority candidates to interview for the position. In it, I outlined that the conversation we had with Mr. Keith, the executive director, did not provide us with any information that could be followed up on. The two suggestions he made, Al Lavan at Delaware State and Rod Broadway at Grambling[1], were far out of our price range ($106K) and therefore, would not even consider applying for the position here. We also noted in that conversation the extreme difficulty we would have identifying even qualified Assistant Coach applicants from bigger conference (FBS) schools at this price range.

In our own research, we scoured SEC, Conference USA, and WAC websites trying to identify qualified minority assistant coaches and coordinators, and we actually discovered a couple of individuals who ultimately did not apply, but we felt should be on the BCA’s radar (and who were not even included in the NCAA’s ‘Resume Book’). I supplied the BCA with this information.

Alas, we did not identify a qualified minority candidate, but we noted that it was not only not for lack of trying, but that we did more than what would ever be expected of a department to identify a candidate, including providing the BCA with information that could assist other institutions even though it did not help us. Alas we received a grade – “F” – that belies the A+ effort we put in.

By receiving A’s in 3 categories (diversity in the interview committee, length of search, and affirmative action policy) and a B in a fourth (number of communications with BCA), we not only showed our commitment to diversity, but showed an exemplary commitment. The F in the 5th category – and I understand, the criteria is what it is – seems unmerited in the context of the letter I supplied in January, explaining that factors such as the salary we offered would not entice qualified minority candidates from larger, FBS conferences, or from out of region.

The overall “C” grade we received feels unmerited, if fair – again, the criteria is what it is. I don’t think, however, that we gave “C” effort or represent a mediocre effort as an institution or a department for our commitment, and that is the picture that has been painted by the Report Card. We had as many A’s as thirteen institutions that received A or B grades overall.

The letter of explanation supplied that detailed the extra work we put in to ensure the process was dutifully executed with regard to promoting ethnic diversity in the search should have mitigated the “F” grade that we received in that category. With this simple explanation, it is clear even to people who do not perform research for a living that the grade was unmerited.

Sorry for my long-windedness – it is nothing else but more evidence of our commitment, and is meant in a collaborative rather than an accusatory spirit. Hopefully, other administrators will stand up for their own institutions as they see fit, and, as Attorney General Eric Holder called on us, not be “a nation of cowards” on the issue of race, fairness in hiring, and ethnic diversity in college coaching.

Respectfully, William Broussard.

[1] Average salary for MEAC and SWAC coaches, 2008, was $133,587.22, and Rod Broadway was paid $156K + bonuses.