It’s undeniable that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has had its issues over the years. Not only do its athletes consistently generate millions of dollars for their colleges and associations without any compensation, but it is also notorious for working with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to ensure that basketball players play for at least one year before they obtain eligibility to play professionally, therefore generating more revenue for their association.
In December, while compiling a list of the number of programs in the NCAA, another issue caught our attention. Despite the 35% of active Black, Latino, and Asian soccer players in the NCAA, there was a significantly noticeable lack of diversity with regards to the individuals who currently hold head coaching positions.
Having a former Data Analyst on our team who is still very active in the youth soccer system, we were compelled to gather data on the demographics of head coaching positions in the NCAA. The purpose was to generate a list of all 1,862 NCAA college soccer programs throughout the country to determine how many minority coaches currently hold head coaching positions. The data that we compiled presented strong evidence that unveils significant diversity issues regarding head coaching positions.
At the Division I level, the highest level of the three NCAA Divisions, there were a total of 528 programs, of which white coaches, both male and female, totaling 475 combined hold 89.9% of the head coaching positions. There were only 25 black head coaches (4.7%), 18 Latin head coaches (3.2%), and 6 Asian head coaches (1.14%), and even more concerning were the number of minorities in Athletic Director positions.
Of the 326 Athletic Director positions in Division I, only 20 were Black. Not only were these numbers disturbing, but they also contradicted the association’s mission that “The NCAA believes in diversity, inclusion, and gender equality with all personnel working within the NCAA organization (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2010). The NCAA wants to have administrators, coaches, and student-athletes of different backgrounds to meet and enhance the cultural needs of the universities and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2010)”.
We recently had the pleasure to discuss the lack of diversity with former Canadian Women’s National team star, Sharolta Nonen, who played in two World Cups in 1999 and 2003, where she was named one of the top 11 players at the tournament. Nonen is one of only three black female head coaches in Division I at Florida International University, and when asked what the data meant to her she said, “It reinforces what I have known to be true from my own personal experiences. Although women’s soccer and females of color are more and more involved at this game at every level, they are not being represented in the coaching ranks at any level; Youth, Regional, National Youth, Semi-Professional, Professional, International, University.”
Being in an even greater minority category as black and a female, means to her that she has a greater responsibility of representing a large segment of the population and not just herself. Nonen has a very candid solution to the NCAA’s head coaching diversity problem in college soccer, “Get more minorities in positions to hire.”
Women’s Division I Soccer Programs – 324
White – 295 (91%)
Black – 15 (4.6%) (3 Female)
Latin – 7 (2.16%)
Asian – 5 (1.54%)
Vacancies – 2 (0.6%)
Men’s Division I Soccer Programs – 204
White – 181(88.72%)
Black – 11 (5.39%)
Latin – 10 (4.91%)
Asian – 1 (0.49%)
Vacancies – 1 (0.49%)
Total Division I Soccer Programs – 528
White – 476 (90.2%)
Black – 26 (4.9%)
Latin – 18 (3.2%)
Asian – 6 (1.14%)
Vacancies – 3 (0.57%)
*The data for Division I is as of January 15, 2018.
The number of minority head coaches continued to decline at the Division II level. Out of the 480 Division II programs, white head coaches totaled 429 (89.38%), while black head coaches totaled 16 (3.33%). Out of the 16 black head coaches, 10 held positions on the women’s side, but there were 0 female black head coaches. At the Division 2 level, head coaches held onto their jobs for an average of 13 years, with 43 of the coaches (all white) who held positions since the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Patrice Parris, who has been the head coach of the Men’s soccer program at the University of North Georgia since 2006, and one of only six black head coaches in Division II, had the following to say on the issue: “Black and other minority soccer players are heavily recruited to play at all levels of our game; we also see this melting pot of players around the major professional soccer leagues. Once their playing careers are over, we do not see these same minority players having the same bountiful opportunities in managerial/coaching positions at all levels of soccer.” There are an estimated 125 black assistant coaches in the NCAA, but in contrast to the number of White assistant coaches there is no comparison. Harris explains, “A Majority of the hires that take place at the NCAA level are based on networking, rather than one’s body of work. Instead of going through the same old process of just doing interviews with different members of the athletic department, why not put the applicants through a practice training session with the student-athletes. Those in power positions who can hire must be open to having a coaching department of diverse backgrounds, hence the NCAA’s mission on diversity and inclusion. In my opinion, we need to have our leaders in leadership positions to be forward thinking and the ability to have a vision in hiring minority soccer coaches.”
Women’s Division II Soccer Programs – 261
White – 236 (90.4%)
Latin – 11 (4.2%)
Black– 10 (3.83%) (0 Female)
Asian– 4 (1.51%)
Vacancies – 2 (1.53%)
Men’s Division II Soccer Programs – 215
White – 193 (89.7%)
Latin – 10 (4.65%)
Black – 6 (2.79%)
Asian – 4 (1.91%)
Vacancies – 2 (0.93%)
Total Division II Soccer Programs – 476
White – 429 (90.1%)
Latin – 21 (4.41%)
Black – 16 (3.36%)
Asian – 8 (1.68%)
Vacancies – 6 (1.26%)
*The data for Division II is as of February 5, 2018.
The number of Division III programs nearly totaled the number of Division I and II combined. Of the 854 Division III programs, white coaches held 779 of the head coaching positions (91.22%), while the total number of black head coaches saw a slight uptick from Division II totaling 30 black head coaches (3.51%).
Women’s Division III Soccer Programs – 436
White – 406 (93.1%)
Latin – 11 (2.5%)
Black – 11 (2.5%) (5 Female)
Asian – 3 (0.69%)
Vacancies – 6 (1.37%)
Men’s Division III Soccer Programs – 417
White – 373 (89.45%)
Latin – 20 (4.8%)
Black – 19 (4.56%)
Asian – 2 (0.48%)
Vacancies –3 (0.72%)
Total Division III Soccer Programs – 853
White – 779 (91.22%)
Latin – 31(3.63%)
Black – 30 (3.51%)
Asian – 5 (0.58%)
Vacancies – 9 (1.05%)
*The data for Division III is as of February 13, 2018.
The data was presented to over 150 black NCAA coaches who currently coach in the NCAA system as head coaches or assistants. Each one shared the same sentiment, that the NCAA must be more efficient and expend more effort to ensure that they are providing equal coaching opportunities.
Julian Myers-Antiaye, the Men’s Assistant Head Coach at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, a NCAA Division II program, is a native of England and came to the US in 2010 to play college soccer. When he learned of these statistics he said, “This is very poor in my opinion, however it reflects the lack of diversity of the opportunities given to minorities to hold positions of power in soccer throughout the US.” Antiaye suggested, “I believe there should be some minority grants and scholarships as they have in the UK which offer and open the door to more minorities to aid getting their UEFA B license. Helping encourage and promote minorities to get higher qualifications as the cost of coaching certifications right now are ridiculous.”
United States Soccer Federation (USSF) Licensing and its cost was a hot button topic at the recent Annual General Membership meeting in Orlando in early February, where six candidates vied to become the next US Soccer President. The winner and former USSF Vice President Carlos Cordeiro, also stressed that the Federation must lower its cost in order to attract the best coaches in the country to obtain the highest licensing.
Parris also shares a similar feeling to Cordeiro about licensing, “Currently, the pricing scale of licenses here in the US is too expensive. Our soccer governing body has implemented a course/license structure which prices out the average coach. Presidents and Director’s of Athletics must understand that a coach who has all of their licenses does not automatically give them validation that one can coach. Don’t just look at Division I coaches and assume that one can coach because they are coming from a Division I level. Don’t be fooled if some coach has an accent either.”
The NCAA must make an effort to implement policies that will ensure that highly qualified minority coaches have the opportunity to interview for head coaching positions. Rod LaFaurie, Men’s Head Coach at Division III Occidental University in Los Angeles and a United States Soccer Federation “A” License Coach is entering his 9th season. When asked what the data meant to him he said, “It verifies something that is pretty obvious. In Southern California, in our conference, at least we have a handful of Latino coaches, but nowhere near the appropriate representation in the black community. But coaching in college is typically in a cycle, meaning someone becomes an assistant somewhere because a Head Coach knows them, then they get a head coaching job if the program does well. So if you get a lot of non-minority head coaches, chances are their coaching friends are non-minority assistant coaches and it goes from there.”
When asked how he felt to be one of thirty-one black Head Coaches in Division III out of the 854 programs, LaFaurie continued, “I suppose I don’t consistently think about that, I know I’m good at my job, but it’s not something that I’m consistently thinking about, outside of when you see a team who is doing well with a minority head coach, that makes me feel good.”
When a position becomes available for a head coaching position, many Athletic Directors will first look at the candidate’s experience as an assistant in the NCAA, and if most of the assistants are white then it becomes even more of a challenge for black assistant coaches to at least get an on campus interview. Most Athletic Directors do not have soccer experience. Therefore after reviewing the coach’s licensing, they then look at his or her experience, and if you do not possess either, an interview would not be worthwhile.
A prime example is Kai Edwards, a USSF “A” Licensed coach for in the NCAA for over 15 years, most recently as the Women’s Assistant Head Coach at the University of Michigan. Despite his experience, he has been unable to acquire an opportunity for an on-campus interview as either an Assistant or Head Coach. This winter, nearly 40 NCAA head coaching positions became available, and although Kai applied and was arguably the most qualified candidate, he has yet to acquire an interview.
Implementing new policies for hiring practices at the NCAA level similar to the Rooney Rule in the NFL would be a start to addressing the lack of diversity in head soccer coaching positions. However, if a rule is adopted, the NCAA may not have the resources to police all 1,862 NCAA soccer programs. In addition, if the rule is implemented, then it must be enforced for all NCAA sports, which total close to 20,000 programs.
So what is the answer? As the Black Soccer Coaches Association, we can only advocate in line with our mission and on behalf of our constituents. This data, provides more evidence that the black soccer coach in the US continues to be at a disadvantage especially at the college and professional levels. It is our duty to hold each and every league and association with a diversity initiative, accountable for the advancement of black coaches in our network. If we do not, then the number of black head soccer coaches will remain marginal and the more qualified candidates will not receive the deserved opportunity to at least an interview.