College football has the money. College football has the ratings. College football has the power to realign conferences into potentially unrecognizable monsters. College football pretty much runs the show.
There is one area in which college basketball has a leg up, though, and it's one college hoops fans should be proud of: Minority hiring.
Compared to football, college hoops -- an old, staunch leviathan in its own way -- looks downright progressive in this regard. Only 13 college football coaches are minorities, which seems drastically low until you consider the number is more than triple what it was in 2008, when you could count minority college football coaches on one hand. (In 2008, only four -- yes, four -- FBS football coaches were non-white. You could literally count them on your hand even if you'd suffered a horrific threshing accident, or had your pinky slammed in a jail cell door.) Football is where the gap is most stark and most in need of remedy.
Which is why measures like Florida's -- which is mulling whether to mandate its public schools guarantee minority interviews in coaching and athletic director searches -- are a good thing. The policy would emulate what the NFL has done with the Rooney Rule, a rule that some franchises have taken for granted but which has helped others widen their scope for potential coaching candidates. Oregon created such a rule last year.
There is still progress to be made in college hoops, to be sure. Writing in March, the Black Coaches and Administrators, an administrative NCAA partner, concluded that though minority coaches cover the benches of major hoops programs as assistants and recruiters, it's been difficult to break into head positions:
"I think the biggest problem we face today on the men's side is second chances," stated BCA Executive Director Floyd Keith. "We've had difficulty getting the second shot for African-Americans by history." Outside of getting the opportunity to become a head coach, many minority assistants feel that there is a stigma that exists in the coaching world that has minority assistant coaches pigeon-holed as only top recruiters and not top coaches. Some of the top players that land at many of the universities and colleges across the country were recruited by minority coaches.
"The challenge is for us to really show that there is a balance in our role as recruiters and our role as being able to lead a program," said Andre LaFleur assistant coach at UConn. "I'm fortunate that I learned from working in the kitchen, I served the food and now I'm learning how to run the restaurant. I learned from the ground up. There is a real challenge for us to shed that stigma of being the minority recruiter."
The BCA also adds that when black coaches do get head positions, and end up losing those positions, it's much harder to find a second job than it would be for a non-minority candidate. Winning has a lot do with this; in 2010, no one is going to fire, or ignore, a winning coach with a sterling hoops record. But schools are much less likely to take a risk on an unproven coach after his first job, and the only way you gain "proven" status is by getting the jobs in the first place. Such is the problem.
College basketball has been pretty good on this issue, but it's not there yet. If mandating minority candidates during the hiring process gets the sport closer -- it's certainly worked for the NFL, despite the laissez-faire efforts of some franchises -- all the better. College football is the real issue here. But college basketball still has plenty of room for improvement, and until college hoops programs can handle this issue on their own without an enumerated requirement, measures like Florida's are the next best thing.