College baseball determined to increase black players and coaches

OMAHA, NA (AFP) – Anthony Holman is the highest-ranking NCAA official in the College World Series and the man responsible for the Division I baseball championship.

Holman is black, and when he watches the games, he doesn’t see many people who look like him on the field or in the dugout.

He said, “I definitely care about her, which is disappointing. To have eight teams and maybe have a dozen or so people of color, I think that’s something we should definitely look to increase.”

Baseball remains one of the least racially diverse college sports. There were fewer than twenty black players—and no black coaches or assistant coaches—of the eight teams that made it to the College World Series.

Of the 279 Division I teams that are not 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 latest NCAA research.. While the coaching staff has remained predominantly white with the rare exception, the number of black players in Division I schools outside of HBCU increased from 236 in 2012 to 434 in 2021.

“We have seen an uptick, and it is sorely needed,” said Holman, managing director of leagues and alliances for the NCAA.

Including HBCU teams, there were 665 black players last year compared to 505 in 2012. As recently as 2014, there were also more white players (255) than black (221) in HBCU.

There will be four black coaches at non-HBCU schools in 2023, up from two this season.

Elton Bullock worked in the Presbyterian Church for 18 years and Edwin Thompson for two years in Georgetown after five seasons in eastern Kentucky. Kerik Jackson was hired in Memphis last month, and Blake Beamer was announced as the new Butler coach Tuesday.

Holman said he sees hiring Black coaches as an important step when it comes to bringing more black players into the game.

“If you don’t empathize with a coach or other players, if you can’t see him, it’s hard to believe,” Holman said. “We don’t want to lose a generation of players because there is no track, no role models, no images they can see.”

Jackson, Memphis coach and chair of the Diversity Committee of the American Baseball Coaches Association’s Baseball Committeehe said his priorities are to provide funding for more programs aimed at introducing sports to black children, especially those ages 6 to 10, and to develop a black coaching line at high school and college levels.

“It’s one of those things that are made of chicken or eggs,” Jackson said. “Do you need more coaches or do you need more players? I think we can go from both angles.”

There were only nine black assistant coaches at non-HBCU Division I schools last year, so it will take time for that streak to flow. Jackson said he wants to develop a network designed to identify black players who have graduated from college or professionals who are showing potential as coaches.

“We’re moving in the right direction when you look at what’s happened here in the past three weeks — I’m getting this opportunity here at the University of Memphis and then Blake Beamer getting a chance at Butler,” Jackson said. “I think we have to continue to make sure that we provide opportunities for coaches and young players, and you have to start somewhere.”

Holman said the NCAA is partnering with Major League Baseball in initiatives to increase minority participation as coaches, players, and referees. In 2020 MLB, the Players’ Association and others have pledged $10 million to programs It aims to improve the representation of black players at all levels of baseball.

The NCAA is also working with the MLB and the Jackie Robinson Foundation to start scholarship programs for black players who may pursue football and basketball.

Football and basketball players receive full sports scholarships. Baseball scholarships are set at 11.7 per team, meaning most players receive partial assistance, although the sport could see a significant increase in scholarships this fall once the NCAA’s Transformation Committee announces changes to modernize NCAA management.

Jackson said the number of black players wouldn’t increase immediately if baseball suddenly offered full scholarships.

“We can’t assume that all blacks are poor and that if baseball were more lucrative they would, in turn, decide to go with baseball because now it’s a complete ride,” Jackson said.

“Now we are assuming that all the players who play football and basketball are from low economic statuses, so they had to choose that,” he added. “Now we are widening that gap and promoting those stereotypes that white kids play because they can pay the difference on a college scholarship, and that’s not necessarily the case.”

Jackson said he was thrilled at his introductory press conference in Memphis when a 12-year-old black guy told him he wanted to be on hand to see a black man get a head coaching job at the local university.

“He stood up during the press conference and asked, ‘When are you going to have camps because I want to play for you,'” Jackson said. “The whole thing was, ‘Oh, cool, there’s someone like me who’s really in charge. How do I become a part of that? We need to create More of those kinds of environments where we have more of these kids playing.”

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More college sports at AP: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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