April 13, 2011

Why Race Matters in College Coaching

There are many reasons that coaching ranks at the collegiate level should mirror the "labor pool" of those playing intercollegiate athletics, said Michael Sagas, chair of the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management at the University of Florida.

Minority athletes need to see role models in their coaches and athletic administrators in order to set goals for themselves, Sagas said during a panel discussion at the Losing to Win Conference. Otherwise, they "self-limit their career goals based on their experience, and they discriminate against themselves."

A "discourse of privilege" prevents many minorities from rising to positions as head coaches or athletic directors, said another panelist, Linda S. Greene, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin and co-founder of the Black Women in Sport Foundation.

Searches for coaches and athletic directors are often handled privately and quietly, and university administrators often prefer to hire coaches they already know. Selections are often based upon vague notions, such as someone being the "right fit" rather than on objective qualifications.

Greene said university presidents and athletic directors should take more time to conduct searches and aggressively seek out minority candidates. The current system "embraces a racially stratified structure … that we are willing to pretend is a meritocracy," she said. "If we do nothing to change that, then we continue to justify racial meritocracy.

"We have made some progress," Greene added. "It's easy to despair that nothing has changed since Jim Crow reigned supreme, but, yes, things have changed. But there is still no systemic reform or rejection of the discourse of privilege." -- Kerry M. King

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