Ben Cohen

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Leveling The Playing Field

Deep in record books documenting J.J. Redick’s scoring averages and the 1938 Iron Dukes’ box scores rests a conspicuous absence of fact. Duke has never employed a black head coach in any sport. For all of its record-breaking achievements, the athletics department with perhaps the foremost national reputation has a stark lack of diversity at the top of its programs.

Duke is far from an exception. But in the ongoing quest to find its 21st head football coach, Duke can buck the trend.

Director of Athletics Joe Alleva-who leads the committee to find Ted Roof’s replacement-has the opportunity to hire a minority candidate to lead a team comprised of 42 percent black athletes in a sport that was more than 50-percent black in 2007 in Division I-A.

College football is an outlier in the sporting world, which features increasingly diverse coaching ranks. In 2007, there were six black head coaches in Division I-A college football, roughly five percent of the country’s total. In the sport’s history, only 22 head coaches have been black.

Almost all sources agree that Duke should hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of skin color. But the question remains: how critically will race factor into that decision?

(1st place, Associated College Press’ 2008 Diversity Story of the Year; Winner, Duke University’s Melcher Family Award For Excellence in Journalism)

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Filed under: Enterprise

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