North Carolina Central men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton shared a clip via Twitter Friday that likely said the quiet parts out loud of how some view HBCU athletics and coaches in general.
Field of 68 Media Group had a roundtable discussion where the question was asked why HBCU coaches aren’t sought after for mid-major or Power 5 Division I jobs, and the answers given by agents were appalling.
One representative stated that athletic directors at mid-majors and Power 5s wanted to see more hustle and self-promotion from HBCU coaches, while another chimed in, adding that “they haven’t shown that they’ve wanted to be hired.”
Considering Coach Moton, the dean of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference basketball coaches, is one of the most active personalities on social media and is more than cordial with a who’s who of famous people (R&B hitmakers and hometown friends New Edition chief among them), that might be the most egregious statement I’ve ever heard.
Yet it’s an unfortunate fact of life for HBCU coaches in all sports who wish to move up another level. It’s particularly frustrating that the lone HBCU coach to take a high-level job after taking his team in the NCAA is a white man – Steve Merfeld, who led Hampton to a 15-2 upset over Iowa State in the 2001 NCAA tournament, was hired at Evansville University in 2002. That’s it. That’s the list.
The disrespect that Black College Sports have faced for generations leads to discussions of resources, administrative functioning, alumni support and so on. All of these are important items to list and discuss when the time is right. However, the sinister side of it cannot be ignored. Saying that Black coaches need to self-promote more or show a willingness to be hired by a mid-major/Power 5 is completely out of bounds.
If you don’t think LeVelle Moton, Kenneth Blakeney or Robert Jones wouldn’t be just as successful at an N.C. State, Georgetown or VCU, as they’ve been at North Carolina Central, Howard and Norfolk State, then I encourage you to learn more about and watch more HBCU Basketball than just what has been parroted by talking heads in recent years.
We’re also talking about a sport where young Black athletes are the majority of most teams. The perception that only a white coach is capable of reaching, motivating and developing young Black athletes into top college players is flawed and archaic. The late greats, John Thompson and John Chaney, along with Nolan Richardson, disproved that notion decades ago.
Those of us who are NFL fans know that you can’t shame the shameless. The Rooney Rule has been skirted time and time again by owners/general managers/team executives who know that they just have to interview one minority candidate before hiring the more than likely white candidate that they wanted all along. Loopholes and the Good Ol Boy Network are traditions unlike any other, word to the Masters.
That also leads to this issue – even if things changed to the point where coaches like Moton, Blakeney and Jones started getting mid-major/Power 5 jobs, where does that leave the HBCUs they’ve coached for so long? And why can’t our schools become March darlings like Florida Atlantic, Farleigh Dickinson and so on? “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” it seems.
There are answers to these questions and solutions to the problem of HBCU sports being treated as less than by the general population, but the willingness to answer the questions and solve the problems can’t always lay at the feet of the people and institutions that don’t have the power or resources to do so at the moment.
My grandmother always used to say if somebody wanted to do the thing (that’s not the word she used, of course), then the thing would be done. It’s very disingenuous to have a roundtable about what Black coaches are or aren’t doing when you have the power to make sure they’re seen, interviewed and hired.
That’s proof that you don’t want to do the thing, and that’s your choice. Just leave the coaches who are doing the best they can with what they have out of it.
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