A Whiter Shade Of Crimson In Athletic Dept.

Minority coaches behind Ivy, NCAA average

When new football Defensive Coordinator Bruce Tall walks the sidelines in Saturday's season opener at Columbia, he will represent a color much more important than Crimson.

Tall is the first black assistant coach on Head Coach Tim L. Murphy's staff. His hiring brings to four the total number of minorities among the more than 130 coaches of Harvard's athletic department-second to last in the lily-white Ivy League and far below the NCAA average. None of Harvard's 41 head coaches are minorities.

Even with the addition of Tall, Harvard officials admit they're unhappy with this situation. Harvard has fought hard to attract minority professors and students, producing the highest percentage of black students in the Ivies. Harvard officials say these successes have made the University's lack of minority coaches all the more glaring.

Harvard's efforts to attract more minority coaches have fallen flat, because they have uniformly failed to strike at the root at the problem: the largely white "good old boy" network of former athletes, friends and coaching colleagues through which Harvard finds and hires its coaches.

Instead, Harvard stays with standard procedure--taking out recruiting ads in magazines and seeking "contacts" with black coaches and historically minority colleges. These half-hearted efforts allowed for the creation of the situation they are now expected to remedy.

And so the result is a cycle of exclusion--a closed network of potential coaches makes it harder to recruit minorityathletes, which in turn should keep the "good oldboy" network far from diverse for years into thefuture.

Numbers

Tall joins two other black coaches already onHarvard staffs, James White '95 on men'sbasketball and Walter W. Johnson III '71 on men'strack. John Wong, an Asian American, is anassistant coach of the softball team. In total,these four mean that roughly 3 percent ofHarvard's assistant coaches are minorities.

According to a study done by North-easternUniversity's Center for the Study of Sport inSociety, in NCAA Division I men's basketball, overa quarter of assistant coaches are minorities, andover a fifth of football assistants. In women'ssports, over 15 percent of NCAA assistant coachesare minorities.

Nationally, for Division I men's sportsbasketball has the highest percentage of headcoaches-nearly 12 percent. In women's sports onlyabout 7 percent of all head coaches areminorities.

Four Ivy League schools--Brown, Columbia,Dartmouth and Yale-have black head coaches, andonly Cornell has fewer minority coaches overall.

"I was aware of the situation," Johnson says."It's something Harvard has been working on forthe 16 years I've been here. I don't see anyresults. That doesn't mean that no one's trying,but I don't see any results."

And Tall, who joined football coach TimMurphy's staff last March was upset by the numberas well.

"I was surprised to find out [that the numberswere that bad]," Tall says. "Unfortunately,minorities are under-represented here."

As Harvard continues to seek a leading role inattracting minority students and star professors,Associate Vice President James S. Hoyte '65, whois black and who oversees Affirmative action atthe University, says the dearth of minorityathletic leaders becomes all the more noticeable.

"We at Harvard...have been quite successful atimplementing programs for recruiting and admittingminority students," Hoyte says. "Harvard is amodel in that regard."

Hoyte added that these successes make Harvard'sfailure to attract minority coaches all the moreembarrassing.

"There's no question [the coaching pool] needsto be more diverse," Hoyte says.

Background

Ironically, Harvard has throughout its historyled its Ivy League fellows in allowing minoritiesto participate in athletics.

In 1892, William Henry Lewis, a Law Schoolstudent, was the first black athlete to be namedto the All-America team.

In 1903, the Crimson baseball team ralliedbehind shortstop William Clarence Matthews,revising its schedule when Southern universitiesrefused to compete against a squad fielding ablack player.

And in recent years, Harvard has maintained itsrole as pioneer, making Tom "Satch" Sanders thefirst black head coach in the Ivies when he wasnamed men's basketball coach in 1973.

But leaving aside the value of diversity forits own sake, Harvard's current lag in minorityhiring has potentially harmful consequences forits athletic programs.

Recruiting of minority athletes may suffer fromHarvard's lack of minority staff.

"It is something which at that stage of life isvery important," says Kenneth Shropshire, aprofessor at the University of Pennsylvania'sWharton school of business and author of Blackand White: Race and Sports in America.

Shropshire said when he played college footballat Stanford, he was recruited by a black coach,but arrived on campus to find that the coach hadleft. He and other black players went to thecoaching staff and asked for another black coachto be hired.

"The role of [minority coaches] is to create asense of comfortability, to send the message, 'Ireally do belong,' to minority athletes," saysCharles Whitcomb of San Jose State University, whois chair of the NCAA's Minorities Opportunitiesand Interests Committee.

Not all of Harvard's coaches are certain thatminority staff means minority recruits. Murphy,for one, cites his own success in attractingminority players despite having the Ivy's onlyall-white staff.

"Four years ago we had only two minorityathletes, now we have 19 [on the football team],so I think we're doing fine already and we'vealways done fine," Murphy said.

But Johnson, Harvard's senior black coach andrecruiting coordinator for the men's track team,agrees that especially at Harvard, recruitingminorities without minority staff poses achallenge.

"Recruited athletes ask about minorityorganizations on campus, and the lack of minoritycoaches and athletes probably has hurt," Johnsonsaid. "If [recruits] research Harvard, they'llprobably find that they could be satisfied here,but it depends on their background. If they'recoming from an all-black neighborhood or all-blackeducational experience, they're going to be putoff."

Explanations

Among the most compelling reasons for thisfailure seems Harvard's relative unattractivenessto an already small pool of minority applicantsfor Division I coaching positions.

With minority coaches at a premium in thecollegiate ranks, the most qualified candidatesare choosy, and Harvard does not measure up.

Black coaches, so the reasoning goes, aregenerally few in number and highly in demand, forthe same reasons Harvard wishes it had moreminority coaches player welfare, diversity and acommitment to equity.

This means minority coaches are able to be moreselective about the programs they choose to workfor.

And Ivy League schools, with no athleticscholarships, far less visibility and far smallersalaries than larger colleges and pro sportsteams, simply can't compete in this seller'scareer market.

Harvard's hiring efforts will also do little toovercome the University's--and the IvyLeague's--sometimes unfavorable reputation in theminority coaching community.

In 1995, the Ivy voted to limit the number offull-time assistants on football coaching staffsfrom six to five. As often happening indownsizing, the most recent hires-many of whomwere minorities-were the first to be let go ordemoted to part-time status.

This record of job insecurity gives minoritiesstill less reason to go out on a limb and take acoaching position anywhere in the league.

For candidates with designs on professionalcoaching jobs, Harvard is less a leg up than alayover. Since coaching positions at top DivisionI schools often preface professional positions,minority coaches--who are more coveted in the prosthan in the NCAA--are even less likely to turn toHarvard as a viable option without compensatoryincentive. That incentive, it seems, Harvard isunable or unwilling to provide.

"Because minority coaches are so sought-after,as soon as you get good, you get raided, you moveup," says Art Taylor, director of urban youthsports at the Center for the Study of Sport inSociety. "[An Ivy School] is not really a steppingstone. [If you're an Ivy school], you've got tolook for someone who wants to be at this level."

The University uses this explanationextensively in a recent self-study of the athleticprogram completed as required for NCAAcertification, and University officials draw onthe same diagnosis.

"Important as athletics are here, academics aremore important," says Dean of the College Harry R.Lewis '68 in an e-mail message. "While this canput us at a disadvantage in [minority coach]recruiting efforts, we are not apologetic aboutit: It is simply a fact of life at Harvard."

Upon replacing Joe Restic four years ago,Murphy attempted to bring two black coaches fromhis staff at Cincinnati to Harvard. But bothassistants--Lou West and Bruce Ivory--declinedbecause their Harvard offers were financially lesscompetitive.

This reasoning, however, fails to get at adeeper source of Harvard's failure to recruitminority coaches.

Like other athletic departments in the IvyLeague and across the NCAA, Harvard depends upon anetwork of largely personal connections to hirenew staff when vacancies arise. Head coaches, inparticular, turn to former players, colleagues andformer assistants, preferring, in the words of theSelf-Study, "someone I know."

Given Harvard's relatively low number ofminority athletes and staff, the pool from whichto draw new candidates is prohibitively small.Although both Johnson and White are alumni of theteams they now coach, they are, like Bruce Tall,exceptions to the typical result.

"This exclusive network of coaches was noted asa problem," Johnson says. "We're trying to getcoaches to look beyond the 'good old boy network."

Nearly all Harvard coaches interviewed for thisstory said they got jobs at the University throughdirect connections with a coach or AthleticDirector William J. Cleary '56.

This pool of connected coaches is by everyone'sadmission low in minorities because of a lack ofminority athletes at Harvard in the past and anoverall lack of minorities among coaches' IvyLeague peers.

And so Harvard begins each recruiting effort ata disadvantage.

"I think it's less likely our existingnon-diverse coaching staff is going to havecontacts with minority coaches," Hoyte says. "Weneed to develop a network that will lead us tomore familiarity with minority coaches."

Why Harvard Has Failed So Far

But extending the network from which it drawscoaches is one thing Harvard has failed to doeffectively in the last few years.

The Self-Study recommends that Harvard placerecruiting ads in coaching journals and academicmagazines like The Chronicle of Higher Education,as well as expand its contacts within the BlackCoaches' Association.

The only new initiative the Self-Study setsforth is the development of a relationship withbodies like the Historically Black Colleges andUniversities (HBCUs) and the Hispanic Associationof Colleges and Universities (HACUs).

It was hoped that this relationship wouldsupplement the existing network of coaches,increasing the number of minority applicants inthe pool.

But coaches at Harvard and elsewhere say thatads are not enough. None of Harvard's currentminority coaches were attracted by ad--all eitherhad a personal connection with a head coach orvisited with the staff.

Whitcomb says answering an ad often means wordgets out that they are looking for a new job,which is often unsettling to a current employer.The average minority coach, he says, is not likelyto take this risk in response to an ad from theunattractive Ivy League.

"It has to be a more aggressive effort," saysShropshire. "It wouldn't be that difficult to sayto someone [in person]...to look at all the othergreat benefits of being at an institution likeHarvard."

But Shropshire's suggestion that Harvardrecruiters make a special effort to createpersonal contacts with minority coaches--echoed byother minority coaches in the Ivy League-has notbeen implemented in hiring efforts so far.

According to Johnson, Harvard's contact withthe Black Coaches Association (BCA) is primarilyat the level of the Athletic Director. Clearyrefused comment and the BCA did not return phonecalls for this story, but so far no minority hireshave come out of whatever contact Harvard has withthat organization.

And Harvard's relationship with thehistorically black colleges centers on Hoyte'sattempts to meet black coaches through theadministrators he meets at gatherings ofadministrators. So far, Hoyte says, this also hasnot "borne fruit."

The real answer, according to experts andcoaches alike, is a more aggressive and morepersonal approach to recruiting-going outside theestablished network to find new minority coachesand personally show them what Harvard has tooffer.

The University of Pennsylvania recommendedthese measures in its recent NCAA Self-Study.Harvard did not.

Consider the case of Tall, who moved crosstownfrom Northeastern to fill the vacancy at defensivecoordinator created by Mark Harriman's departurefor a head coaching position at Bates.

Not only did Tall have the opportunity to makea campus visit and to meet with Murphy's staff,but Tall sought an athletics program in Harvard'smold.

"Harvard isn't the highest-paying, but it'sbetter than many others," Tall says. "And thebalancing of academics with athletics, that'salways what I've looked for. I liked theopportunity to be around student-athletes."

With two years' experience in the Ivy Leagueunder his belt--Tall spent the 1986 and 1987seasons in assistant coaching roles atCornell--Tall was no stranger to the unique roleof an Ivy coach.

In every circumstance, Tall surmounted theconcerns that most minority coaches have aboutjoining a program like Harvard's. His willingnessto join Murphy's staff was serendipitous, buthardly a way to set policy for the future.

And both Murphy and Tall convey the impressionthat the entire hiring procedure was race-blind,Tall even going so far as to comment that "the jobwas attractive because it was one of the few forwhich I was interviewed not just because I was aminority."

On the one hand, this approach is laudable.Murphy hired a top-notch coach who, happily, wasalso a minority. But on the other, it reinforcesthe uncomfortable conviction that Harvard, despitepromises to the contrary, is not making anyminority-specific efforts to hire new staff.

Conclusions

It is tempting to believe that Harvard is notentirely to blame for its deficiency in minorityhires.

To be sure, there are institutional factorswhich make landing blue-chip minority coachesdifficult, but the same could be said for hiringminority faculty or recruiting minority students.

Harvard has chosen to surmount institutionaldifficulties in these other arenas, which begs thequestion Hoyte and Harvard coaches have asked: Whyhasn't the University made a similar effort todiversify athletics?

For now, Harvard will have to content itselfwith those who, like Bruce Tall, are willing tolook past career considerations and the obstacleof a school which focuses heavily on academics.

But depending on the good will of exceptionalcoaches like Tall is a questionable way to setUniversity policy. Everyone agrees that new,aggressive measures are necessary, but no one isquite sure why they aren't off the ground.

And no one we spoke to is optimistic thatthings will change in the near future.

"The purpose of the [NCAA Self-Study] reportwas to develop a plan, and I think it was a goodplan, but if I've heard anything in the 16 yearsI've been here, it's plans," Johnson says."Results, I haven't seen."

A Coach's RaceSource: Northeastern University Center forSport in SocietyCrimsonAndrew K. MandelJoshua H. SimonAt Harvard and throughout Division I, theoverwhelming majority of coaches--across allsports--is white.NCAA Head Coaches-Division I  Men's  Women's  HarvardWhite  93.7%  92.4%  100%Black  4.2  5.3  0.0Other  2.1  2.3  0.0NCAA Assistant Coaches-Division I  Men's  Women's  HarvardWhite  84.2%  82.6%  95.5%Black  12.6  12.5  3.4Other  3.2  4.8  1.1