When Floyd Keith and the Black Coaches and Administrators' association began a massive endeavor in 2003 to make college athletic administrators more accountable in hiring minority football coaches, there were three in Division I-A — all black.
The BCA's landmark Hiring Report Card system was implemented in an effort to spotlight the hiring processes of colleges, hoping to persuade them to conduct searches in a more equitable way.
This week, the members of the BCA will gather at Innisbrook for the annual convention. And one of the many messages that will be delivered is while it is slow, there is certainly progress.
"It's getting better," said Keith, the executive director of the BCA. "It's not where we'd like to see it, but it is better. At one time, it was like plowing cement. Now we're just plowing."
Among the 65 schools in the six BCS conferences — ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC — Miami's Randy Shannon, who is black, was the lone minority coach. Meanwhile, blacks comprised about 70 percent of the rosters.
But during this offseason, a record six, all black, were hired. Of those, four are at BCS schools.
In 2010-11, there will be 15 I-A minority coaches. Louisville's Charlie Strong, Florida's former defensive coordinator, is the first black coach in the Big East while Kentucky's Joker Phillips is the second black coach in the 75-year history of the SEC.
"I think the BCA report card has been one of the tools that has brought about the most dramatic period of hires in the history of college football," said Richard Lapchick, a Central Florida professor and the national director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, who has been an integral part of the research and implementation of the report card.
"When last season was over, we went from being in the worst period of all time to a point where more people can say we've finally turned the corner. The report card was one of the starting points for that."
Between 1982 and 2008, there were 492 I-A coaching openings. Minorities were hired for 25 (5.1 percent) with 24 of the appointments occurring after 1990, according to research in the BCA's most recent report.
"At first, it was really difficult and slow," Keith said. "We went backward there for a while. But in one year, we almost doubled our numbers, which is unheard of.
"I think when you see that type of progress, that speaks volumes for … where we hope to be in the future."
On Thursday, the BCA will release its third annual Hiring Report Card for women's basketball. At the conclusion of its 2008-09 season, more than half of the 16 available coaching positions were filled by minorities, and all but two universities received an A.
Lapchick, who wrote the women's report, said the sport's gains have been more significant than football partially because athletic directors face less scrutiny from boosters and alumni for nonfootball jobs. That flexibility can widen a search and allow more time to find minority candidates.
But the BCA is not without its critics.
Some argue the report card unfairly punishes schools because it doesn't account for mitigating factors that might prevent a school from contacting minority candidates.
Wiilliam Broussard, a teacher and fundraiser at I-AA Northwestern State, spent a year over 2006-07 doing research for the Hiring Report Card. In a letter to the BCA protesting his school's final grade, a C, Broussard said the suggested candidate list for a 2009 football vacancy was sometimes vague and included overqualified candidates who were not likely to be interested because of the school's pay scale.
Floyd said the BCA provides individualized information based on what each school says is its expressed desire in a candidate.
Lapchick believes what has made the report card unique — and effective — is it judges the openness of the process, which forces schools to acknowledge its validity instead of downplaying it as an ultimatum to hire any minority.
"The report card was a real objective measure of the hiring process and how open it was," Lapchick said. "We knew that if the process were opened up, there would be more opportunities. If you read the report, you'll see that a lot of these schools that have A's didn't hire a person of color. That showed the good intentions of the BCA not to be ramming anything down anybody's throats, but to open up the opportunities for black coaches."
The BCA report card is just one of a growing number of initiatives designed to help create more fairness and equity in the football hiring process.
The NCAA has created a Diversity and Inclusion program that includes an academy to promote professional development of coaches. I-A athletic directors have adopted an "acceptable standards" policy in hiring, and the state of Oregon recently adopted a law similar to the NFL's "Rooney Rule," which requires teams to interview a minority prospect during the hiring process.
"This isn't just the effort of the BCA," Keith said. "We've been at the forefront of this, but there have been a lot of people's efforts. And we continue to evaluate the process. Before, there was no disclosure. The (hiring) process was really not very transparent, and I think we've done that to whatever degree we can do it. And now it's become automatic that when the job opening comes up, I hardly have to make the initial contact. They call us."
That's a positive message to impart on coaches and administrators gathered this week with one word of warning.
"We can't get too comfortable," Lapchick said.
"If you don't keep the pressure on, don't keep the spotlight on, there's a serious chance of reversal. We have to be guardedly optimistic."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.