Ex-NFL coach Tony Dungy has a column in the New York Times today, joining the chorus of those decrying the low number of black head football coaches in the NCAA. I wrote about the legal angle to this issue on Phi Beta Cons at the end of last year, but let me add an additional point today: namely, that it’s not at all clear that there is any “underrepresentation” of black coaches. Here’s a letter to the editor I wrote to The New York Times last month (alas, unpublished) explaining why:
Your January 8 article, “Williams Joins Yale, And a Racial Issue Fades for the Ivies,” refers to the “the consistently meager numbers of black head coaches at the top level of college football,” and asserts that “8 of 119 [in the Football Championship Subdivision] is a low percentage.”
Not really. True, that’s only 6.7 percent, exactly half the 13.4 percent which African Americans make up in the general population. But if we make the reasonable assumption that generally college football coaches are — like Tom Williams — males who have a college degree and at least a decade’s worth of coaching experience, that discrepancy disappears. Among males who were 30 or over in 2007 (the most recent year for which Census Bureau data are available), precisely 6.7 percent of the bachelor’s degrees were held by African Americans.
That said, let me praise Coach Dungy — by all accounts and from all I know, a very praiseworthy man, and I say that not just because I’m a Colts fan — for his prescription. He thinks that black candidates are being unfairly passed over, and he wants this to stop, but he does not call for affirmative action, or quotas, or goals, or a “Rooney rule,” or anything like that. To the contrary: “To get this done I don’t think we need any magical formulas or special programs. We don’t need task forces to uncover good candidates. Our universities merely need to do what’s right — hire the best candidates, regardless of race.”
Amen to that.