Current data from the Department of Education shows there are 34,908 whites enrolled at the HBCUs, making up 12 percent of all enrollments. That is actually down from 13.1 percent in 1993.
There are a handful of white coaches and other officials in athletic departments at the HBCUs. However, the schools' athletics director positions have been held almost exclusively by African-Americans. HBCUs have not often been in a position to hire anyone with experience running a Division I-A program, but Bell has led two I-A programs -- at Utah State and San Jose State.
Bell has the support of Delaware State men's basketball coach Greg Jackson.
"When we looked at the candidates, he fit the bill," Jackson says.
And Delaware State's president, Allen Sessoms, says that, "it is about going to the next level. There is no color to a win."
Bell is willing to take the risk and accept the challenge, hoping students, faculty and administrators at Delaware State will view his past record and see he has enormous credibility on diversity issues.
While he was at San Jose State, nearly half of the head coaches Bell hired were people of color, including Hill, who now works with me at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sport at the University of Central Florida. At the time, Hill was only the fifth African-American head coach in Division I-A football.
Hill tells me that under Bell, the athletics department at San Jose State was the most diverse in the Western Athletic Conference and one of the most diverse in the country. Bell had people of color serve as women's basketball coach, men's and women's gymnastics coaches, tennis coach and softball coach. In each of those Division I sports, none have people of color making up more than 9.6 percent of the head coaches nationwide.
Now, Bell is the first white athletics director at Delaware State, and white ADs at HBCUs are even more rare than African-American head football coaches.
Floyd Keith, the executive director of the Black Coaches Association, which pushes hard to improve opportunities for African-Americans in college athletics, said, "Delaware State did exactly what we ask schools to do: Have a real selection process that finds the finest pool of diverse candidates and then choose the best of the group. Chuck Bell is an excellent choice."
Hill, Keith and I dream of a day when we will not notice the color or gender of those hired and fired in college sport. But understanding that we are a long way from that day, we salute Delaware State for choosing the best candidate and having the courage to do the right thing in its selection process.
Richard E. Lapchick is the Chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. The author of 10 books, Lapchick also directs UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, is the author of the annual Racial and Gender Report Card, and is the Director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport. He has joined ESPN.com as a regular commentator on issues of diversity in sport.