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Giger: PSU can be proud of hiring diversity, but same can’t be said for college sports in general

James Franklin and Micah Shrewsberry

One of the most important and fascinating notes to come out of Penn State sports in the past two days also is a sad note in a lot of ways. It’s something Penn State can be very proud of, but also something that college sports in general should be ashamed of.

This was pointed out Monday on Twitter by The Farmer Jones, after news broke that PSU was hiring Micah Shrewsberry as the new men’s basketball coach.

James Franklin, of course, is Penn State’s football coach, and he’s one of only 12 Black head coaches in all of FBS. There are 130 schools competing at the FBS level, and even though a large percentage of players at those programs are Black, a measly 9.2 percent of the head coaches are Black.

That’s appalling. The low number has always been appalling.

About 29 percent of the Division I college basketball programs have a Black head coach, according to this study. That’s still a low number, considering that more than 50 percent of the players at the level are Black.

Franklin was asked Monday about Penn State having a Black coach in football and basketball. He wasn’t able to give the most detailed answer, because PSU had not yet announced the Shrewsberry hiring, but Franklin did address the issue.

“I obviously won’t speak on the hire yet at this at this stage, but I think most importantly (was) being able to hire the most qualified person for Penn State and going through a broad search,” Franklin said. “I’ve had some conversations with Sandy (Barbour) about it, and I know that’s what was important to them is to have a diverse, broad, comprehensive search, and then at the end of the day hire the best person available.

“And then for me, if that person happens to be a person of color, then hopefully I can provide some perspective of what it’s going to be like for them, what the town’s like, the school, being at Penn State, all those things I want to I want to be a resource, obviously.

“I think it’s great for the student athletes. I think it’s great for the university as a whole. I know how important diversity is to President (Eric) Barron and the administration. So if it happens to play out that way, then great. But ultimately it’s about hiring the best person for Penn State to help our basketball program take the next step.”

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As Franklin said, hiring should always be about finding the best candidate, regardless of race, gender, religion or anything. There’s not a doubt in my mind that in this situation, Shrewsberry is the best candidate Penn State could have landed, given all the particulars with the men’s basketball job and what PSU can afford to pay.

The candidate pool would have been different if the school could pay $3 million for a basketball coach, but that’s not the case. The strong belief here is that if Penn State could pay $3 million, then Barbour still would have had many, many tremendous Black coaching candidates to choose from.

It’s time for more schools — and more pro teams in many leagues, for that matter — to start considering and hiring minority candidates. It’s way, way past time for that to happen, because it should have been happening long ago.

But that obviously has not been the case, which was made perfectly clear by the fascinating and sad note above about Penn State being the only Power 5 school in the country with Black football and basketball coaches.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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