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A coaching vacancy

Harvard has 41 varsity sports -- and zero blacks at the helm

ROBERT SCALISE Athletic director since 2001

Harvard University, which prides itself on promoting racial diversity, is facing scrutiny for running an athletic department devoid of black leadership. Not one of the 32 head coaches guiding Harvard's intercollegiate sports programs is African-American. Nor is the athletic director or his 13 senior administrators.

The absence of black leadership was particularly striking to equal-opportunity advocates because of Harvard's distinguished stature in higher education and the school's claim that it funds "the nation's largest Division 1 athletic program." Harvard has not employed an African-American head coach in any sport since Peter Roby guided the men's basketball team from 1985-91.

"To think that Harvard would not have a single African-American head coach, male or female, in 2007 is breathtaking," said Harvard Law professor Charles J. Ogletree, one of the institution's leading civil rights advocates.

"Given the important work the university has accomplished in diversifying its faculty, student body, and staff, this is difficult to comprehend and even more difficult to accept. I hope the leadership will see this as a matter of urgent necessity to correct."

A top Harvard official said the university's president-elect, Drew G. Faust, is committed to correcting the problem. The school recently launched a search for a new men's basketball coach after parting ways with coach Frank Sullivan early this month.

"We're obviously disappointed that we lack significant racial diversity in the athletic department, in particular at the senior level," said James S. Hoyte, assistant to the president and associate vice president for equal-opportunity programs at Harvard. "The new president has made clear she is very concerned about seeing a more diverse senior management team throughout the university, including athletics."

Hoyte said "the message has been communicated loud and clear" to athletic director Robert L. Scalise, whom former Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers described as "a proven includer" in 2001 when he appointed Scalise the school's seventh athletic director in school history. All seven have been white men.

Scalise, during his tenure, has hired new head coaches for men's golf, ice hockey, and volleyball; women's golf, lacrosse, soccer, Alpine skiing, and water polo; and men's and women's cross-country and track and field. All are white, including 29-year-old Jason Saretsky, a Columbia graduate who took over the cross-country and track and field programs this year with no prior head coaching experience. He previously served as associate head coach at Iona College.

Scalise was not available to comment, according to Chuck Sullivan, Harvard's director of athletic communications.

"We're certainly not going out of our way not to have black coaches," Sullivan said. "The pool of candidates for each position is judged on its merits, and the process goes as it should."

The results, however, have been unacceptable to African-Americans who tried blazing a trail for other black coaches at Harvard.

"You can't pride yourself on being one of the world's great institutions and then look at your athletic department and see no visible signs of ethnicity," said Roby, who serves as director of Northeastern's Center for the Study of Sport in Society and Northeastern's interim athletic director.

"It's an issue Harvard needs to take seriously. They need to become proactive about appreciating the value a diverse coaching staff can bring."

Low turnover cited
Former Celtics coach and player Tom "Satch" Sanders became one of the first African-Americans to serve as a head coach of any sport in the Ivy League when he took over the men's basketball team at Harvard in 1973. Sanders, who coached the Crimson until 1977, said the lack of black head coaches and senior administrators in the athletic department 30 years later warrants special attention by school leaders.

"We're not talking about a college or university somewhere else in America," he said. "We're talking about Harvard, a university of international renown, to put it lightly. Clearly, one wonders about the reason for the lack of diversity, particularly at this date. I can't begin to fathom the reason why."

If Harvard athletic officials believe they have done their best, Sanders said, "Whatever their best has happened to be, it clearly has not been their real best."

Harvard reported spending $15.9 million in the 2005-06 academic year on intercollegiate athletics, including nearly $700,000 to recruit athletes. Supporting the claim that it operates the nation's largest Division 1 athletic program, the school reported fielding "41 varsity sports, two dozen junior varsity teams, more than 1,500 intercollegiate athletes, and a broad array of wellness and recreation programs."

Harvard pays 32 head coaches for 41 varsity sports because several coaches guide both men's and women's teams in the same disciplines, including cross-country, fencing, sailing, skiing, squash, and track and field. In the last academic year, the school reported paying its male full-time head coaches an average of $89,614, while female full-timers earned an average of $69,496. Both averages were comparable with other Ivy League schools.

Sullivan, the Harvard athletics spokesman, attributed the diversity deficit in part to low turnover among the school's coaches. Tim Murphy, for example, has served as head football coach for 13 years and is under contract through 2011. Harry Parker has coached heavyweight crew at Harvard for 44 years, while Scott Anderson has coached men's lacrosse for 20 years and Sue Caples has guided the field hockey team for 19 years. Frank Sullivan was fired March 5 after leading the men's basketball program for 16 years.

Hoyte acknowledged that Scalise may have limited opportunities to increase the department's racial diversity, but he rejected the explanation as an excuse.

"The numbers are the numbers," Hoyte said. "We should be doing a better job on this."

The only minority among Harvard's 32 head coaches is Satinder Bajwa, who was born in India and educated in the United Kingdom before he became an American citizen. He coaches the men's and women's squash teams.

Input from the BCA
"If you don't have somebody somewhere of color, that's a problem," said Floyd A. Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association. "They ought to seriously look at that."

Keith cited Harvard's historic rival, Yale University, as faring reasonably well in fostering racial diversity in its athletic department. African-Americans serve as head coaches of Yale's men's basketball team and men's and women's soccer teams, as well as holding at least one senior administration position.

The only Division 1 school in Massachusetts other than Harvard with no African-American head coaches or senior athletic administrators is the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In the Ivy League, Princeton is the only other school that has no black leadership in its head coaching or administrative ranks. Princeton also is searching for a men's basketball coach.

Keith said the Black Coaches Association has "some names ready that we would be happy to forward" to Harvard as the school searches for a basketball coach.

"I hope they are diverse and inclusive," Keith said. "That's all we can ask."

Sullivan said Harvard regularly seeks advice from the Black Coaches Association and welcomes additional suggestions.

"Whenever we have an opening, we go out of our way to recruit minority candidates through the Black Coaches Association and other resources," Sullivan said.

Hoyte said top Harvard officials consider greater racial diversity overdue in the athletic department's leadership ranks.

"We're hopeful we can make some progress in the coming months," he said.

The sooner the better, said Richard E. Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida and director emeritus of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

"Harvard should focus on developing a plan so its athletics department can look like America instead of who runs America," Lapchick said.