ORLANDO -- The NCAA kicked off Thursday its first three-day Champions Forum, an aggressive program designed to help increase the number of minority head football coaches at every level.
The program has brought together a wide-range of athletic directors from around the country with a group of 11 minority coaches who were identified as having both the experience and potential to be successful head coaches.
The program was started to address the NCAA's lack of minority head coaches. Of the 582 schools that play either Division I, II or III football (excluding the historically black universities), only 3.9 percent have head coaches of color.
Of the current 119 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head football coaches, only seven are African American, one is Pacific Islander and one Latino.
"If you compare the small number of minority head coaches with the large number of minority student-athletes, there is a big gap," said Charlotte Westerhaus, NCAA vice-president for Diversity and Inclusion. "This forum is designed to help bridge that gap."
According to the NCAA, there were 22 openings for head coaches on the Division I level after last season. From those, 27 minority candidates were interviewed at least one at every school but only four were hired.
They were Mike Locksley (New Mexico), Wayne Walker (New Mexico State), Ron English (Eastern Michigan) and Mike Haywood (Miami of Ohio).
"The interviews are happening," Westerhaus said. "What's galling, what's disturbing, what is appalling, is that the hires haven't been happening. The focus needs to be on the hires."
The program is designed to help the coaches get a better feeling for what the athletic directors are looking for when they make hires. It also is designed to give the athletic directors a better feeling of who the minority coaches are.
"In any business, you hire people you are most comfortable with," said Jamie Hill, the defensive coordinator at Brigham Young. "You hire people with the same ideas and concepts. But how do you know my ideas and concepts if you don't know me? That's why I'm here."
The Forum is in conjunction with the National Association of College Directors of Athletics Convention taking place in Orlando.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think the program would be helpful," said David Kelly, assistant head coach at the University of Central Florida. "To spend three days with the people are integral in the decision-making process has to help you develop relationships, a comfort level."