Feb 262009
Authors: Sean Star

At an overwhelmingly homogenous university, it should come as no surprise there’s a significant lack of diversity in the current head-coaching circle at CSU.

In fact, there’s no diversity. Ten head coaches. Ten very similar looking faces.

Take a stroll through the offices of the McGraw Center and you’ll find that the trend is very much the same.

But don’t think for a second CSU’s problem is a unique one.

Last week The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport released its annual study on racial and gender hiring practices, and collegiate athletics didn’t fare well. NCAA member institutions came in dead last in comparison to the NBA, WNBA, MLB, NFL and MLS with an overall grade of C+, according to the report.

“The primary problem regarding racial hiring practices is that whites still dominate key positions,” said the report, authored by University of Central Florida doctor Richard Lapchick.

CSU Athletics Director Paul Kowalczyk says he is very aware of the problem, both nationally and here on campus.

“The only way that this is going to change is if people are truly committed to creating change,” he said.

But is Kowalczyk, whose first three hires at CSU were all white, one of those committed to creating change?

There’s clear evidence he is.

Back in November, Black Coaches and Administrators released a report grading the hiring practices of last year’s head coaching vacancies – a position that notoriously lacks diversity.

CSU received an A for the process that eventually led to the hiring of Steve Fairchild.

But wait a second, how does a school get an A for hiring a white coach? CSU received the BCA’s highest marks in three of the five observed categories — diversity of the search committee, length of search and implementation of affirmative action hiring policies –, which led to the overall grade.

So Kowalczyk and his staff were rewarded for their effort and not necessarily the outcome. But don’t judge the AD’s affective commitment to diversity solely on his time at CSU.

“I have a track record that illustrates my commitment: Whether it was hiring a black men’s basketball head coach or a black female head track coach at Southern Illinois, or in this case grading well in the football search,” he said. ” … I’m a member of the BCA. Having been to their convention before, I’m very sensitive to the issues.”

And though CSU may not currently have any minority head coaches, the picture isn’t all that bleak, said Marcus Elliot, a former collegiate women’s basketball coach and interim director of Black Student Services.

All three of the school’s revenue sports — football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball have minority assistant coaches — Elliot noted.

“As far as coaches are concerned, I think CSU is doing a fairly decent job as far as being able to get the numbers of diverse representation in coaching. We still have a long way to go to get to there, as far as comparable on the national level. I’ve seen CSU make some pretty good strides as far as making sure that those things are taken care of.”

“I just believe that with regard to athletic administration there’s also some steps that need to be taken as far as getting more minorities in athletics administration, he said.”

Kowalczyk has done a great deal to improve the Athletics Department in his brief time at CSU, and there’s no doubt the future looks very bright with him in charge.

Let’s just hope the future is a little more colorful too.

Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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