Color Blind or Token Hire??

By Dr. Boyce Watkins, BASN Contributor
Updated: December 3, 2010

NEW YORK (BASN) — Jon Embree is a former tight end for The University of Colorado. He is currently an assistant coach for the Washington Redskins.

The rumor mill has it that Embree may soon take the next step of becoming head coach at his alma mater.

Typically, such a bold move by a university to give an African American coach a chance might be applauded. In this case, heads are turning because of confusing remarks made by former Colorado coach Bill McCartney.

McCartney, who was one of three finalists for the job as of Wednesday night, shut down speculation by stating that the university had informally offered the job to Embree. He also went as far as stating that Embree was offered the job because he is African American.

“It was never about me doing it again,” McCartney told the Denver Post. “It was about setting the table for a black man to come in (as head coach). And he (athletic director Mike Bohn) hired one. Now, give him a chance.”

McCartney went on to say that it was “awesome” that the school offered the job to Embree.

Sorry, but Bill’s “awesome” remark at the end is not all that convincing. The fact that former coach McCartney made reference to Embree’s race as being the primary reason he was hired implies that he’s not giving Embree credit for being the best man for the job.

In fact, it almost seems that McCartney is saying that if Embree were white, he would be deemed unqualified. Isn’t that what people say when they stigmatize black hires as being beneficiaries of Affirmative Action?

Had McCartney simply been an outside observer, his remarks might have more credibility. But the fact that McCartney was competing with Embree for the job says that his ill-conceived statement may be a duplicitous attempt to manipulate the hiring process (the university has not yet made its formal decision) .

McCartney is effectively saying that he never had a chance to get the job he desired because the school only wanted the black guy.

I’ve commented on multiple occasions about the Americanized Apartheid which exists within the NCAA. Although over a billion dollars per year is earned by the NCAA on the backs of black athletes, these athletes are almost never given opportunities to earn any of that money.

Not only are their labor rights stripped during college, but they are not being offered coaching jobs when they graduate. Only 3 out of 119 NCAA college football coaches are black, but many of the players earning billions for these campuses with national TV appearances are African American.

Heisman trophy candidate Cam Newton is one case in point. While the nation stood still over a scandalous exchange of $180,000 for Newton’s football services, no one noticed that Cam’s coach, Gene Chizik, is being offered millions in contract extensions and incentives resulting from Cam’s brilliant play on the field.

No one in the country turns on an Auburn University football game to see Gene Chizik. But millions of Americans are glued to their TV sets in order to see Cam Newton.

When players like Newton have outlived their short lives on the football field, many of them are in their mid-twenties and uneducated in nearly anything other than the game of football.

While I scream at the top of my lungs about the self-destructive nature of throwing away your educational future in exchange for sports, I would at least like to see more of these young men get opportunities to coach in the game they know best.

Instead, the NCAA consistently tells them that they were good enough to be uncompensated pieces of meat on the football field, but not good enough to enjoy the riches of standing on the sideline. This is simply insulting.

One of the glaring racial disparities in college sports is the “good old boy network,” the one that benefits coaches like Bill McCartney who have the privilege of being able to call up friends at the university who tell him that Embree is only being hired because he is black.

One could also take McCartney’s argument on race and use the converse: Embree may or may not be getting the opportunity because he is black, but the data clearly show that McCartney would likely never have been a head football coach were he not a white man.

So, as much as some would like to complain about the impact of modern day Affirmative Action, we must realize that the Affirmative Action program for white males in America (and the NCAA in particular) has been in existence for the past 400 years.