The Racial Divide in College Football Coaching: Gatekeepers Dictating the Winners and Losers
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Black head football coaches in NCAA collegiate athletics continue to be numerically marginalized. A common problem exposed in the literature is the tendency for researchers to approach the study of black coach underrepresentation from a lens that places racial discrimination as a “potential” cause of the black coach predicament. As a result, when examining the racial inequality in college athletics many of the theories utilized lack a critical race-based framework, thus minimizing the focus and severity of the race problem. These theoretical approaches also neglect to recognize that sport is a functioning piece of the larger cultural, economic, and political environments. Moreover, these frameworks are absent of an agenda to interrogate the gatekeepers, the whites who hold the hiring decision authority, which suggests these individuals are not responsible for the race problem in sport leadership. Minimizing racism and the scope of its impact sends a message that sport is a unique institution, one where its issues are independent from society at large. This study makes up for these limitations. Guided by systemic racism theory, the purpose of this study was to apply a mixed-method design to better understand racial inequality within the leadership structure of NCAA collegiate football programs. Part I compared various performances between black and white head coaches. Results revealed that although there were no differences in performances between coaches, black coaches were terminated significantly sooner than white coaches. Part II obtained insights from mock hiring committees (n = 290) – in regards to ascribed attributes, perceptions of job fit, and hiring recommendations - to determine how job candidates, varied by race and qualifications, are rated on becoming a head football coach within a Division I athletic program. Results, through ratings and commentary, showed qualified candidates were viewed more favorably than unqualified candidates, white candidates were viewed more favorably than black candidates, and while both white and black candidates were viewed similarly positive within their respective qualification categories, white participants were harsher on both qualified and unqualified blacks than non-white participants were. Recommendations are discussed in terms of both theoretical and practical directions for change.
Regan, Michael (2014). The Racial Divide in College Football Coaching: Gatekeepers Dictating the Winners and Losers. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from