DENVER—Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry met the academy’s new superintendent for the first time Wednesday, and found himself being reprimanded, but not fired, for statements he made about black athletes and recruiting.
The 67-year-old coach, known for his folksy, disarming charm and his homespun sayings, found himself in an imbroglio over political correctness for the second time in less than 12 months.
Last time, it was about religion in the locker room. This time, it was about black football players—or the lack of them—at the academy.
After his meeting with Lt. Gen. John Regni, DeBerry, who is suffering through a 3-5 season this year, issued an apology at a news conference.
“I realize the things I said might have been hurtful to many people and I want everyone to understand that I never intended to offend anyone,” DeBerry said.
On Tuesday, in discussing last weekend’s 48-10 loss to TCU, DeBerry said it was clear TCU “had a lot more Afro-American players than we did and they ran a lot faster than we did.”
“It just seems to me to be that way,” he said. “Afro-American kids can run very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me that they run extremely well.”
“I have made a mistake and I ask for everyone’s forgiveness,” he said. “I regret these statements and I sincerely hope they will not reflect negatively toward the academy or our coaches or our players and I thank the administration for the opportunity to make this apology.”
DeBerry said he had no plans on stepping down after this latest public embarrassment. Athletic director Hans Mueh, who took DeBerry to Regni’s house, said the academy “has a zero-tolerance policy for any racial or ethnic discrimination or discrimination of any kind.”
Nonetheless, Mueh said the coach would not lose his job.
“It was a seriously, seriously inappropriate comment,” Mueh said. “This was a great first step. This was not Fisher DeBerry, not the man I’ve known for 25 years. I’d like for us to all just move on from there.”