The Nuclei: White Head Coaches in Big-Time College Sports

If colleges had a shred of concern for their Black athletes, we would see far more Black head coaches.

The lethal coup attempt last week reminded us of America’s enduring and racist double standards. White supremacist Trump supporters assaulted the Capitol Police, injuring scores of them and killing one. The footage captures police restraint that starkly contrasts the traumatic images of Black people being subjected to brutal and excessive force at the hands of police.

Predictably, there were calls for college coaches to speak out and denounce the event. These coaches are in unique and prominent positions with tons of visibility. They are also overwhelmingly White within men’s basketball and football, two sports where the majority of participants are Black. These coaches are the nucleus of their college athlete’s higher education experience. They have the final say on the athletes most valuable asset—their time.

When coaches do speak out, what their predictably tepid statements show is that talking to their Black athletes about America is an educational space where they have next to nothing to contribute. To be sure, these moments of crisis do present the opportunity for allyship. More importantly, they are opportunities for college leaders to take stock of how they can do better by the Black athletes on their campuses who have to navigate the racist impediments of American society.

Head coach job openings offer colleges a wide-open-layup of an opportunity to provide a shred evidence that they care about the intellectual and personal development of their Black athletes.

As a college educator, I know how important it is that I stay in my intellectual lane when serving as an instructor, and that it would be reckless of me to try to direct a learning experience in a space where I lack expertise.

Many of these coaches have promenaded down “good-neighborhood” paved streets for most of their lives, oblivious to the dire inequities flaring around them. And, for those who emerged from more humble origins, they still have not lived the Black experience, and thus can only offer paltry insights to Black college athletes trying to reconcile the real-world.

If FBS schools in particular cared about the intellectual and personal development of their Black athletes, we would see significantly more Black head coaches. It’s some of the lowest hanging fruit among the lengthy list of things needed to reform the gargantuan mess that is college sports.

There is an abundant supply of former Black athletes who aspire to coach, and who majored in Sport Management because they were obediently sacrificing their time to their school’s insatiable sports appetite. Hire them. And, in addition to their being great coaches in the realm of competition, they likely will be able to offer your Black athletes something better than what far too many Black college athletes are receiving now from White head coaches—circle peg insights for a world of square holes they aren’t familiar with.

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