DeBerry cites lack of minority players for struggles

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry,
expressing frustration Tuesday with the Falcons' slumping
performance, attributed the latest loss in part to No. 20 TCU's
having more black players who "can run very, very well."

DeBerry, in his 22nd year at the Air Force Academy, first
mentioned the academy's lack of minority players compared to other
schools while talking to reporters Monday.

He said Air Force needed to recruit faster players. "We were
looking at things, like you don't see many minority athletes in our
program," DeBerry told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

When questioned about the remarks during his weekly luncheon
Tuesday, the coach didn't hesitate to elaborate.

"It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run
very, very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other
descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me they run extremely
well," DeBerry said in remarks first broadcast Tuesday night by
KWGN-TV in Denver.

Academy officials released a statement saying they were aware of
the remarks.

"We cannot comment further until we have a chance to review all
the reports, the coach's actual statements and to speak with the
coach personally," academy spokesman Lt. Col Laurent Fox said.

DeBerry, 67, is the winningest coach in service academy history
with an overall record of 161-94-1. He has led 17 teams to winning
seasons and 12 have captured bowl titles.

This season, though, the Falcons are struggling. DeBerry is
facing the prospect of consecutive losing seasons for the first
time since becoming coach in 1984.

Air Force lost 48-10 to TCU Saturday, dropping to 3-5 overall
and 2-4 in the Mountain West Conference.

DeBerry found himself at the center of a controversy last year,
too. He hung a banner in the locker room that read in part "I am a
member of Team Jesus Christ" a day after the academy's
superintendent announced the school would do more to fight
religious intolerance.

The coach also dropped his traditional pre- and post-game

Claims that chaplains and some academy leaders impose their
conservative Christian beliefs on others prompted an investigation
by the Air Force, which concluded there was no overt religious
discrimination at the school near Colorado Springs but found some
cases of insenstivity.

The Air Force issued new guidelines on religion in August, but
an academy graduate filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the
school's leaders fostered an environment of intolerance.

The complaints that some cadets and faculty are evangelizing
others follow a sexual assault scandal that shook the academy two
years ago when female cadets said commanders punished them when
they report assaults. The Air Force replaced the academy's top
commanders and put new policies in place.