Jarrett Durham became the first black head coach–major college or pro–in Western Pennsylvania when Robert Morris promoted him to lead its men’s basketball program in 1984.
In the quarter-century since then, only five black coaches have followed at Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Duquesne and Robert Morris.
Of the region’s five colleges with Division I programs, Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington is the only black head coach in the highly paid and visible sports of football and basketball.
In that span, Pitt has hired five football coaches and four men’s basketball coaches–all white–while hiring a black man, black woman and white woman for its women’s basketball job. Penn State and Duquesne eventually joined Robert Morris in hiring black men’s basketball coaches.
Now an athletic administrator at Duquesne, Durham is among those echoing former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who brought the issue into the national consciousness last month with a column in the New York Times calling on the NCAA to require universities to interview a minority candidate for every head football coaching job.
Since adopting the Rooney Rule–named for Steelers owner Dan Rooney, then-chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee–in 2003, the league has experienced a 250 percent increase in minority head coaches.
Blacks account for 60.4 percent of Division I men’s basketball players and 22.9 percent of its coaches. In major college football, blacks make up 45.9 percent of the student-athletes, yet only 5.8 percent of the head football coaches.
‘Rooney Rule is realistic’
Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, compiles statistics for his annual Racial and Gender Report Card that draw attention to the disparity of black head coaches and black athletes.
Lapchick advocates legislation that would mandate minority interviews for every NCAA head-coaching opening. He proposes it as the Eddie Robinson Rule, in honor of the late Grambling State football coach whose 408 career victories are an NCAA record.
The Sports Business Journal reported that the Division I Athletic Directors Association has “adopted a memorandum of acceptable standards for interviewing football coaches that states at least one minority should be given a formal interview for each head coaching opportunity.”
The NCAA, however, has no rules for enforcing such standards. Instead, it formed an Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2005 that runs academies to better prepare minority candidates for head-caching jobs.
Where black football coaches fill the ranks of assistants, they have found difficulty getting head-coaching jobs.
Pitt didn’t formally interview a black candidate when it hired basketball coach Jamie Dixon in 2003 or Dave Wannstedt in ’04. Wannstedt did not interview a black candidate in replacing his defensive coordinator last year or offensive coordinator this year.
Pitt has three full-time black assistant coaches on the football staff–running backs coach David Walker; receivers coach Bryan Bossard and linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin.
Pitt also never interviewed a minority candidate when it rehired Pederson in November 2007. Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg eschewed his appointed search committee–which included Bruce, now an assistant athletic director. Pitt did interview a black candidate, Keith Tribble, for the post in 2003, when it hired Jeff Long to replace Pederson. Tribble is now athletic director at Central Florida.
Leadership ‘overwhelmingly white’
Affirmative action is a priority for taxpayer-supported universities.
Blannie Bowen, Penn State’s vice provost for academic affairs, said the university has a seven-step challenge to encourage the pursuit of minority candidates to join its 24 campuses.
“We encourage all of our campuses to be very proactive in seeking out the best candidates we can find,” Bowen said. “As with all universities, it becomes an issue of supply and demand.”
“The big issue in college is the alumni, the booster,” Durham said. “There’s where you get your problem. The administrators at the college level have to be abiding to their alums. If you can solve that, you can move forward. The people who have the money dictate things at the college level.”
Lapchick believes that the number of white head coaches is reflective of universities led by white administrators. All 11 Division I football conference commissioners are white, as are 92.5 percent of the university presidents. The number of minority athletic directors is 13.3 percent.
“Every year, we also publish a D-I leadership study that looks at presidents and athletic directors, and they’re overwhelmingly white,” Lapchick said. “You can pretty much assume if you have an African-American athletic director, they’re going to have an open hiring process–even if they hire someone who is white. We’re just hoping to get that process opened up.”
Of the four schools that hired black football coaches after the 2008 season, two had black athletic directors. Eastern Michigan’s Derrick Gragg hired Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English, and New Mexico State’s McKinley Boston hired UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker.
Of the other eight black athletic directors, only Buffalo’s Warde Manuel has hired a black football coach and Eastern Michigan is the only school with blacks holding the titles of athletic director, football and men’s and women’s basketball coach.