According to a recent report by the University of Central Florida, the number of black coaches in men’s college basketball is dropping, and a new group has formed to try to reverse the trend.
Last year, 22 percent of men's college basketball coaches were black. That’s a three percentage point decline from a decade earlier. And at least a dozen black coaches have been fired this spring.
Former Michigan State athletic director Merritt Norvell is the executive director of the National Association for Coaching Equity and Development and he spoke with Bill Littlefield.
BL: What do you think is behind the recent drop in minority coaches?
We know that the probability of us getting re-hired is much lower than it is for other coaches.Merritt Norvell, NACED executive director
MN: I don't know. We don't know exactly the answer to that. We know that the probability of us getting re-hired is much lower than it is for other coaches. White coaches do all kinds of atrocious behavior, and they either get retained or they get a ... similar job at a different school. And we know for a fact that if they happened to be non-white coaches, they would not get that same opportunity.
BL: Fewer chances after the NCAA has come down on them or some sort of event like that.
MN: Yeah and in a lot of cases the NCAA doesn't have to come down on them. But yeah, if you're involved in an NCAA investigation then you're kind of toxic.
BL: Well, let’s turn to college football. In 2003, the NFL enacted the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a new head coach or general manager. Why wouldn't a similar rule be effective in college football?
MN: In the NFL, there's two people who make the decision. One is the general manager, and the other is the guy that owns the team. That's not the case in college football. College football is a power sport and a cash business. It attracts power influences outside the university that presidents and athletic directors have to contend with because they're willing to take the money. And there's a lot of people that have a lot to say about who gets hired in some of these major institutions.
BL: Your group is new, but advocacy by black coaches is not. You’ve said that pioneering coaches from the past like John Chaney, John Thompson and Nolan Richardson are “upset right now with us because nobody has continued to fight the fight.” What do you mean by that exactly?
Young people today need to understand that they have rights and privileges today because those people paid the price to make it happen.Merritt Norvell, NACED executive director
And they were right. They're right about that — that, you know, these young coaches today need to understand that it's like the people that walked across the bridge at Selma. Young people today need to understand that they have rights and privileges today because those people paid the price to make it happen. And the same thing is true with this whole coaching profession.
BL: The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development has already enlisted prominent black coaches like Texas’ Shaka Smart, Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith and Georgetown’s John Thompson III. What are the specific plans that your group has going forward to address these issues.
MN: There's three pillars to our business: one is training and development; there's an employment piece — our coaches aren't even getting in the pool at this point in time, which is really frustrating a lot of people; the third pillar is advocacy, and with the older coaches that's the most important pillar because we have the responsibility to monitor all the NCAA legislation, conference legislation, national legislation that directly impacts our membership as well as minority student-athletes.
This segment aired on April 25, 2015.