OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Anthony Holman is the NCAA’s highest-ranking official in the College World Series and is in charge of the Division I baseball championship.
Holman is black, and when he watches the game, he doesn’t see many people on the field or in the dugout who look like him.
“I definitely look into that,” he said, “and it’s disappointing. For eight teams and maybe a dozen or more people of color, I think that’s something we definitely need to grow.” should. “
Baseball is one of the least racially diverse college sports. The eight teams that made the College World Series had less than two dozen Black players—and no Black head coaches or assistant coaches.
Of the 279 Division I teams not from historically black colleges and universities, only 4% of players, 1% of head coaches and 1% of assistant coaches were Black in 2021, according to the most recent NCAA research. While the coaching staff has been mostly white with rare exceptions, the number of black players in non-HBCU Division I schools increased from 236 in 2012 to 434 in 2021.
“We’ve seen a boom, and it’s very much needed,” said Holman, the NCAA’s managing director of championships and alliances.
Including HBCU teams, there were 665 black players last year, compared to 505 in 2012. As recently as 2014, HBCU had more white players (255) than black (221).
Non-HBCU schools will have four Black head coaches in 2023, up from two this season.
Alton Pollock has been at Presbyterian for 18 years and Edwin Thompson is at Georgetown for two years after five seasons in Eastern Kentucky. Kerick Jackson was hired at Memphis last month, and Blake Beamer was announced on Tuesday as Butler’s new coach.
Holman said he sees the recruitment of Black head coaches as an important step when it comes to bringing more Black players into the game.
“If you don’t identify with a coach or other players, if you can’t see it, it’s hard to believe,” Holman said. “We don’t want to lose a generation of players because they don’t have a way or a role model or an image to look at.”
Jackson, president of the American Baseball Coaches Association’s Diversity in Memphis Coaches and Baseball Committee, said that his priorities are to generate funding for more programs aimed at introducing sports to black children, especially those between the ages of 6 and 10, and Developing a black coaching pipeline at the high school and college level.
“It’s one of those chicken-or-egg things,” Jackson said. “Do you need more coaches or do you need more players? I think we can go from both angles.”
Last year there were only nine Black assistant coaches at non-HBCU Division I schools, so it will take time to get that pipeline flowing. Jackson said he wants to develop a network designed to identify black players coming out of college or pro ball who show potential as coaches.
“We’re headed in the right direction when you look at what’s happened here over the past three weeks — I’m getting this opportunity here at the University of Memphis and then Blake Beamer getting this opportunity at Butler,” Jackson said. “I think it’s up to us to make sure we provide opportunities to young coaches and players, and you have to start somewhere.”
Holman said the NCAA partnered with Major League Baseball on initiatives to increase the participation of minorities as coaches, players, and umpires. MLB, the players’ union and others pledged $10 million in 2020 for programs aimed at improving the representation of black players in all levels of baseball.
The NCAA is also working with MLB and the Jackie Robinson Foundation to launch a scholarship program for black players who might otherwise pursue football and basketball.
Football and basketball players receive full athletic scholarships. Baseball scholarships are capped at 11.7 per team, meaning most players receive partial assists, although the sport will see a dramatic increase in scholarships this fall after the NCAA’s Change Committee announced changes to the NCAA regime. could.
Jackson said the number of black players would not increase immediately if baseball suddenly offered full scholarships.
“We can’t make the assumption that all black people are poor and that if baseball were more attractive they would decide to go with baseball because it’s a full ride now,” Jackson said.
“Now we’re making the assumption that everyone who plays football and basketball is from lower economic conditions, so they had to choose it,” he said. “Now we’re widening that gap and perpetuating the stereotypes that white kids play up because they can afford the gap in college scholarships, and that’s not necessarily the case.”
Jackson said he was overjoyed at his introductory news conference in Memphis when a 12-year-old black in attendance told him he wanted a black man to get a head coaching job at a local university.
“He stood up during the press conference and asked, ‘When are you going to camp because I want to play for you,'” Jackson said. “It was the whole thing, ‘Oh, whoa, there’s someone who looks like me who’s really in charge. How do I be a part of that?’ We need to create more of those kinds of environments where we have more number of these kids to play in.”
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