COLLEGE STATION, TX – African-Americans are underrepresented in hiring decisions as college football coaches, according to a new study co-authored by a Texas A&M University researcher.
George Cunningham, professor of sport management in the Department of Health and Kinesiology and director of the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport, has found that the proportion of African-Americans hired as assistant football coaches is significantly less than the proportion of African-American players.
“For a number of years, over 50 percent of the players have been African-American, and yet 5 percent of the Division I head coaches are African-American,” Cunningham says.
Cunningham completed the study with Trevor Bopp of the University of Florida. The article appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Sports Media.
In the study, the authors examined media releases pertaining to assistant coach hires issued in 2008 by NCAA Division I-FBS football programs. The researchers looked at both the demographics of the hires and the specific reasons given for hires in the releases. The study does not cover head coach hires.
“We found there’s really not a difference in who’s hired into a coaching position when there’s a low concentration of African-American players,” Cunningham says.
However, African-Americans were more likely to be hired into coaching positions with high concentrations of African-American players, while white coaches more likely to be hired as offensive or defensive coordinators.
This finding is important because assistant coaches serving in coordinator positions are more likely to later be promoted to head coach.
Differences also emerged in the reasons stated for the coaching hires, Cunningham notes.
According to the study, the media releases about African-American hires generally focused on their capability to relate to players and recruit. With white hires, however, the media releases largely concentrated on their experience and knowledge.
“If I say, ‘You’re a great coach; you have a great mind; and you have all this experience,’ that’s praising the actual abilities of the coach. And that’s what’s linked to promotion,” Cunningham says.
The article suggests that training and educational efforts may begin to help address these hiring issues in college athletic programs.