Athens, GA (Dec 2, 2008) - Just a week after Tim Brando took on the BCS and ESPN, he offered a new opinion on the lack of
minority black head coaches in Division 1-A football. This small number became even smaller with the dismissals of Ty Willingham (Washington), Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), and Ron Prince (Kansas State). Why does this open up a can of worms? Because there was no inward looking discussion of the fact that the CBS Sports college football game site talent and senior production staff, with one exception, was all white!
Here is a breakdown for the CBS Sports remote production crews for college and pro football this past weekend (including the Thanksgiving Day game):
|College Football (3 Games)|
|NFL (7 Games)|
|Overall (10 Games)|
If you look at these raw numbers, you see that 100% of the CBS Sports Producers were white males (10 out of 10), and that 89% of directors were white male or female (Mark Grant worked both NFL and college this weekend). This means that 94.7% of the senior game site production staff (18 out of 19) were white. If you add in senior production staff from the studio shows, the percentage gets even higher? How do these numbers stack up against the number of black coaches in Division 1-A college football? Was Brando sitting in a glass house when he offered his opinion? Where is the "outrage" over these numbers, as well as the overall numbers in sports media in general?
This spreadsheet was sent to CBS Sports so that they could fill in the numbers for assistant directors/producers and broadcast associates. No response has been received yet, and if it is, the chart will be updated.
Here is the transcript from the exchange between Brando and Spencer Tillman on last Saturday's show:
(On reaction to breaking news that Mississippi State’s head coach Sylvester Croom resigned today after completing his fifth season).
BRANDO: Certainly the administration felt the pressure of Houston Nutt's instant success at Ole Miss. That had to be a major factor.
TILLMAN: It did It's not unlike what's happening down at Alabama with the white-hot pressure that Nick Saban is putting on Tommy Tuberville at Auburn. So it's problematic for sure.
BRANDO: ...It reduces the number of African-American coaches in major college football to two, and I am often asked why we continually bring up this subject. But you know what, the answer is simple, there are 119 Division I-A jobs and the number of African-American coaches is two. That's not acceptable.
TILLMAN: Timmy, I don't so much get wrapped up in the numbers game because it's too much of an entitlement trap. The thing that I like to do is point out the process or the lack of access to a process. With this Lane Kiffin deal, if it stands up at Tennessee and he's hired I've got to believe that Charlie Strong is a more qualified coach than Lane Kiffin was for that position. Yet he wasn't able to get access to the process. You look at the success that Turner Gill is having at Buffalo. You look at Houston's coach having great success there, Kevin Sumlin, outstanding process going on there. These guys don't have a chance to get to the process.
BRANDO: We're talking about proportionality. It is an issue. It’s inescapable. You can't get away from it. 70 percent of the players playing this game are of color and less than one percentage point of the 119 Division I-A (coaching) jobs are of color.
TILLMAN: Since you are doing it with the numbers, 53 percent of the players at the 65 Division I level that comprise the BCS are players of color. What that tells me is you can play for us on the field, but you can't coach us.
James Brown of CBS Sports has long worked to open doors for minorities in sports production. The challenge is how do minorities break the glass ceiling into the ranks of long entrenched senior production staff? This is not to say that this is a systemic bias at CBS Sports, or any other Network for that matter. But if you take Tillman's last comment, you can easily change it to read "What that tells me is you can play for our audience on the field, but you can't produce or direct the games."
However, like life, the answer is not always black and white. Yes there are flaws in the system that need to be addressed (Lane Kiffin as head coach at Tennessee? Give me a break!). And that leads to a final thought for Brando: African-American is a politically correct term. I know many African-Americans who are as white as you and me. It is not called the African-American Coaches Association is it? If you are going to limit the discussion to black head coaches, call it that. But you should not limit it to that. You should be talking about all minorities in the coaching ranks. You should also be looking at the pipeline of minority assistant coaches in college football.
Addendum (added 4 Dec 2008)
A reader pointed out what may seem to be an omission in this story. CBS Sports upper management does include two minorities and a woman (42.8% or 3 out of 7): Harold Bryant (Vice President, production), Author Harris (Vice-President, Broadcast Operations), and LeslieAnne Wade (Senior Vice-President, Communications). This information was not included because the story is focused on game site production staff and talent. There was no intention to slight their accomplishments.
The reader also said that Bryant was the "The first black head of a sports division." This is actually not the case. Former UCLA standout and NBA Player Roy Hamilton has held the equivalent position with Fox Sports Net since 1997. Here is an excerpt from an interview he did with Sports Business Daily back in July 2007.
Sports Business Daily: How would you describe the opportunities today for African Americans on the production side of TV, or in sports media in general, compared to when you began your career in the early ‘80s?
Hamilton: In the early part of the business when I started, there weren’t very many African Americans on the production side. It’s making a little improvement. I’d like to see it get better and see more opportunities given to African Americans. It’s a very, very tough business itself, it’s a small business, it’s almost like playing in professional sports. There are a few jobs and a few opportunities at certain places.
I think a lot of African Americans have a tendency of being on-air and they get tremendous opportunities from being star athletes. That’s the first direction that some do go. But I would love to see some move on the production side because there are a lot of creative individuals out there and it’d be great to see more of them in those positions. One of the positions that I’d like to see more of is upper management, in senior positions. I’m seeing glimpses of it working to a certain degree, then suddenly sometimes you see the progress hasn’t been made as much as sometimes you’d like for it to be.