Change. It was the rallying cry for President-Elect Barack Obama, and something that almost every minority in this country has, at one time, yearned for. Whether you agree or disagree with the selection of Obama as the nation’s next leader, it is hard to ignore that for many Americans he represents an idealism that is perhaps greater than that of any individual since Martin Luther King Jr. He has, at the very least, shown that our country can change and eliminate racial divides that once seemed insurmountable.
While change was proven possible at the highest level in our country, why is it so hard to find it in professional and collegiate athletics? Whether it is on the sidelines, in the front office or in the commissioner’s office, those who call the shots in sports are mainly white males.
Some may ignore the issue and say that everyone is on an even playing field when it comes to deciding who fills these positions. However, the numbers show a staggering imbalance in who really gets these jobs.
Perhaps the greatest example of all is in college football. In the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, there are currently 119 head coaching jobs. Minorities presently hold four of them. It is the lowest total since 1993, when there were just three. Even with more emphasis on interviewing and hiring minority candidates, the FBS has gotten worse at filling these positions over the last 15 years. The numbers are troubling, especially considering that 55 percent of all student athletes are minorities according to a report by UCF.
In a time when we feel as though the country is making racial progress every day, it is disappointing to see such a disparity among head coaches in college football.
The problem, though, is not exclusive to college football. Taking a look around professional sports shows a disappointing lack of diversity. The four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) have always had white commissioners. In addition, of the 122 professional teams, only Charlotte Bobcats-owner Robert Johnson is a minority.
Despite all these glaring problems, it would be inaccurate to suggest that these professional sports leagues go out of their way to make sure that minorities are kept out. Minority hiring is stressed by all of these leagues, and jobs in sports are far from exclusively white. However, while minorities are filling many positions, those jobs that are more prominent in the public eye do not feature enough new faces.
The issue has caught attention around sports, and minor changes have been made to the hiring process.
In the NFL, the “Rooney Rule” makes sure that when there is a head coach position available for a team, a minority candidate must be among the people interviewed. The rule has generated mixed results within the NFL. Although seven of the 32 head coaches in the NFL are minorities, many criticize the rule because candidates who have no real shot at the job are brought in just to meet the requirement.
There can be an endless number of rules and regulations put in place to help solve this problem, but nothing can change unless those in charge become more open to any candidate out there. By no means should they hire a minority for the sake of hiring a minority because that defeats the entire purpose of trying to find a solution. The solution can be found by eliminating race from consideration when evaluating who is more qualified for the job.
There are certainly instances when minorities are being denied the chance to be hired for no other reason than the color of their skin. Unfortunately, there are still people with heavily racist feelings across this country, and it would be hard to believe that at least one of them is not making these decisions in professional or collegiate athletics.
A change in sports would be not as historically significant as the recent change that took place in the election, but it would have a profound impact on American society and, particularly, American youth.
To some, a door that was thought to remain locked forever was opened. However, there are more doors to open in this country. The lack of minorities in the most coveted positions in sports is obvious. When any young child can look at the most prestigious and important position in this country and know they can grow up to be that, it is a great day for this nation. Unfortunately, many others are still waiting for that day in sports.
David Cassilo is a junior communication major from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]