Fisher DeBerry’s Racist Comments

Pat Forde believes that a series of controversies are threatening to tarnish the legacy of Air Force Academy head football coach Fisher DeBerry.

DeBerry should retire before his legacy slips (ESPN)

This is looking like an excellent time for Fisher DeBerry to retire. He’s had a great run at the Air Force Academy — arguably the greatest run for a service academy coach in the last 50 years, since Red Blaik at Army — but his remarkable legacy is sinking fast. Why lose it in the quicksand of unwise racial remarks, combative Christianity and too many losses? Why not call it a career at the end of this, his 22nd year as head coach, and ride off into the Rocky Mountain sunset?


Then, after losing to TCU Saturday to drop to 3-5, DeBerry explained that the Horned Frogs’ defensive success is attributable to the fact that it starts 11 African-Americans. “… Afro-American kids can run very, very well,” DeBerry said. “That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me they run extremely well.”

Again, not ideal timing. On Monday, the academy welcomed a new superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Regni, who pledged a zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination. On Tuesday, DeBerry piped up about TCU’s African-American players, stopping just short of saying, “We need us some more of those black fellers.”

I’m not saying that Fisher DeBerry discriminates. I went to high school on the base of the Air Force Academy, and I graduated a few years ahead of Fisher’s son, Joe (who was a fine baseball player). I don’t know anyone in my hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo., who doesn’t think highly of DeBerry.

So it’s not like DeBerry was inventing something here — or even saying something many coaches don’t talk about in private. But given the decades of wrongly stereotyping black athletes as physically superior and mentally inferior — run fast, think slow — the coach was walking into a minefield. He was creeping toward Jimmy “The Greek” territory — and every coach knows that you don’t go there. Certainly not without great care.

I’m all for a more open dialog about race in America, and especially in sports. But sweeping generalizations about fast black players are going to get a coach in trouble.

There’s little denying that. But should it?

African Americans comprise 12% of the population of the United States. They dominate professional sports, especially the NBA and NFL*. Virtually every Olympic sprinter of any note is black, even those from countries that have virtually zero blacks in the population. Some of that is sociological, to be sure. But that can’t be the only reason, can it?

Aside from that, it is a strange double standard, indeed, that black people can make fun of white people’s inability to dance well, jump high, or run fast but whites can’t acknowledge the same about themselves.

Last night, Kim and I got around to watching the Adam Sandler remake of “The Longest Yard” ( a very funny flick, incidentally.) A major subplot of the movie involved the efforts of Paul Crewe (Sandler) to recruit black athletes for his team in order to get faster players. The impetus for this came from Playmaker (Chris Rock). None of the black prisoners seemed troubled by the notion that they might be faster than whitey; indeed, it was rather implied.

This was also a major subplot, and inspiration for the title, of the Woody Harrelson-Wesley Snipes flick “White Men Can’t Jump” and countless other pop culture vehicles.

Are black people actually offended by the view that a higher percentage of them are possessed of speed and leaping ability than their white counterparts? Or is this just something that liberal white journalists feel the need to express outrage over?

Update: TCU head coach Gary Patterson, who is white, has weighed in cautiously.

TCU’s Patterson surprised by DeBerry remarks (Dallas Morning News)

TCU football coach Gary Patterson said Wednesday he was surprised to read comments made by Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry about his program and players.

Following Air Force’s 48-10 loss to TCU in a Mountain West game Saturday, DeBerry was asked about the problems surrounding his program. DeBerry said he needed to recruit faster players. “We were looking at things, like you don’t see many minority athletes in our program,” DeBerry told the Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo. When asked Tuesday to elaborate on his comments, DeBerry said: “It’s very obvious to me the other day that the other team [TCU] had a lot more Afro-American players than we did. It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me they run extremely well.”


“We’re fast,” Patterson said. “But I believe in shark rules. Don’t jump in the water with sharks or sharks turn on you. We all have our own set of circumstances. We do recruit speed here, but I was just surprised to hear his comments.”

Patterson said he became aware of DeBerry’s comments Wednesday morning when staff members showed him the stories.

Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association, said Wednesday that DeBerry shouldn’t have involved race concerning TCU’s players. “He better go out and start recruiting,” Keith said. “I know what they deal with in the academies. So that’s a tough gig — I understand all of that. Probably the best way he should have said it was we just need to recruit some speed and left it alone.”

No doubt about that.

*I find wildly varying figures, ranging from 75-85% of the NBA to 65-75% of the NFL.

FILED UNDER: Race and Politics, Sports, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brian says:

    The issue isn’t whether black people will be offended that they are seen as better athletes. The issue is that the coach seemed to dismiss the victory as somewhat hollow due to the presence of black people on the other team. That is the difference between the comments and the movie. The movie was lampooning a stereotype. It’s all about context and meaning.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I think he was just making excuses in perhaps a less than constructive way. What he was saying, basically, is that USAFA can’t recruit the best athletes.

    Now, as this piece points out, it’s not a great excuse.

    Air Force Academy’s Highest-Paid Employee: Blacks “run very, very well”

    His logical leap–African-American players=football superiority–could be easily disproved if DeBerry simply watched his own games.

    Back in September, here in Seattle, Air Force scored 20 points against a Husky defense with eight African-American players.

    They held Washington’s offense, which started black players at quarterback, running back, fullback, and all three receiver positions, to 17 points.

    So despite being dramatically out-melanined, Air Force beat the Huskies.

  3. Kent says:

    The problem is that, if it becomes acceptable to say that blacks can run faster or jump higher that whites, there is the danger that it will also become acceptable to say that whites can solve differential equations faster than blacks. I think that’s why blacks react so negatively to statements that could otherwise be regarded as flattering.

  4. Randy says:

    Regarding Kent’s statement
    “The problem is that, if it becomes acceptable to say that blacks can run faster or jump higher that whites…”

    It is well documented that blacks, on average, can run faster and jump higher than whites. It is a well known fact that of the world’s 100 fastest men in the 100 meter run are all west Africans or of west African desent. This is also why over 80% of the players of the NBA are black.

    And Kent’s statement that:
    “I think that’s why blacks react so negatively to statements that could otherwise be regarded as flattering.”

    Blacks don’t react negatively to the observation that they can run faster and jump higher, only Kent does.

  5. Kent says:

    Blacks don’t react negatively to the observation that they can run faster and jump higher, only Kent does.

    Where did I react negatively to this observation? My guess would be that it is probably correct.

    Perhaps my impression is incorrect, and most blacks do not react particularly negatively to this observation. But then why are the coach’s comments controversial enough to warrant a news article? That’s the question I thought James was asking, and it’s the question I was trying to suggest an answer to.

  6. Marv Toler says:

    This is a tough situation. The coach really didn’t need to say what he did. However, how many whites start at conerback, safety, or wide reciever in the NFL?

  7. Randy says:

    Blacks won’t run any slower nor whites any faster because white writers beat their chests and say certifiably insane things in order to show they are more racially sensitive than this outstanding coach by lying at the top of their lungs.

    “Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to cooperate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”

    Dr. Theodore Dalrymple,

  8. Jim Tribone says:

    I don’t fault Fisher Deberry wanting to win some football games and he got then toughest job to do and what make it work to win the some games.

    But one thing for sure is that he is human being and human being do make mistakes and they say things that they didn’t mean to say.

    I’m not saying that I condone what he said the other day I just think that he was just a little frustrated that there are some players that who are lacking some speeds in some areas.

    I have attend some of the AFA Home Football Games and I have watch some players that can do some better coverage then other players can.

    Is speed the factor ? it may have some factor into it ? but what I have seen when they played I’d think the communication between the defences player and other defences players break down and the other team take advantage of that break down.

    What I have seen what TCU did to the AFA is that they did there job and they execute it very well.

  9. Gary R. Stenzel says:

    I take issue with Deberry and his comments about TCU; I am a grad of BYU – their football team is virtually all Caucasian, except for a few blacks and Polynesians (who are considered Caucasian). They manhandled TCU for 3.5 quarters and basically lost the game because of a missed extra point. The Europeans and South Americans have shown us that Caucasians can play with the best American NBA players, in fact Ginobli (SP?) clearly showed he could play with anyone.
    John Stockton, Danny Ainge, Dirk Novinski played with anyone. Primarily Caucasion basketball teams killed our best “black” NBA players (there was not one Caucasion on our team from the NBA)in the Olympics. Caucasion Eastern Block runners consistently beat some of our runners in world track. No, this is a psycho-social issue. Coaches have lined boys up for picking their teams and picked them because of color. That is wrong. White young men don’t think they can run or jump (something that is usually taught) and in fact don’t care anymore. That’s the problem, not genealogy. Deberry’s comments will set Caucasian young men and college football back again. Each time a parody about this ridiculous subject comes up it makes it worse. This needs to stop. If we have a truly equal society, then lets act accordingly. Catch a clue Deberry and quit whining about something you have no right to comment on.

  10. Kenneth Cummings says:

    Gary, I belive you are missing the point here. Nobody is questioning whether or not whites can play with blacks. The issue here is speed. Why the media and you guys are making such a big deal of this confuses me. It is rather common knowledge in this country among those that manage sports teams that blacks are typically faster than whites. That is why you don’t see whites playing tail back at the D1 level or the NFL Level. You can count the number of what is considered to be fast white players in the NFL on one finger; his name is Dwight Stone. When was the last time that BYU was nationally ranked and played against top D1 schools and maintained a top 25 ranking? Sure, BYU does have some great years, but has time caught up with pure whiteness of BYU? I believe the team that gets the most recognition coming out of the state of Utah is the University of Utah which typically features black players in several “speed” positions. The comments that Deberry made are common knowledge. Have you taken a look lately at the track and field U.S. team? What I recall from the last olypmics is there was one white male that ran on the 4×400 team that won the gold. I recall that because that is rare today in this country. People at the higher level of sports today in this country realize that. I agree with you that the last U.S. Olympic team was ridiculous. It wasn’t because they didn’t have white players. It was because they didn’t have shooters. Ray Allen is considered by many today to be the best shooter in the NBA. The others are European players. I can understand why you would be offended by this though coming from your backgroung as a BYU alumni.

  11. Thomas says:

    To be a geneticist in America studying physical differences between ethnic groups with distinct genetic inheritances is just about as dangerous as being a geneticist at BYU studying the genetic inheritances of American Indians. Both scientists will tend to make findings that turn people’s sacred cows into steaks. (The doctrine of the Mormon Church, which sponsors BYU, includes a teaching that a substantial portion of the ancestors of American Indians were ancient Israelites, which has been complicated, since the development of modern genetics, by the ability to trace the ancestry of populations by their genes.)

    America is (rightly) so ashamed of its racist past that it’s allowed the meaning of the term “racism” to shift from its original connotation of an irrational belief that one ethnic group is inherently better than another, to include scientifically-verifiable conclusions that genetic inheritance can account for statistically-significant differences in important physical characteristics, including running speed.

    Jimmy the Greek got in trouble, as I recall, for speculating that plantation owners practiced “selective breeding” to produce a stronger slave work force. That was absurd — not because the end result (differences in strength among different populations) was impossible, but because evolution doesn’t work that fast.

    The vast majority of people of African descent derive the majority of their genes from common ancient ancestors going back 40,000 years or more. That genetic inheritance is still fairly distinct, because substantial mixing among ethnic groups is a relatively modern thing, made possible by improved transportation and more enlightened attitudes. (Likewise, it’s possible to demonstrate that the vast majority of American Indians share the genes of common ancestors in Central Asia about 10,000 years ago — which is what might get the BYU geneticist into hot water.)

    Kent wrote, “The problem is that, if it becomes acceptable to say that blacks can run faster or jump higher that whites, there is the danger that it will also become acceptable to say that whites can solve differential equations faster than blacks. I think that’s why blacks react so negatively to statements that could otherwise be regarded as flattering.”

    It’s not acceptable — scientifically or otherwise — to say that “blacks can run faster than whites.” It IS scientifically testable whether a greater average percentage of blacks than whites can run unusually fast. Any particular white person may well be able to run faster than a particular black person — but I would not be at all surprised to discover that out of a random sample of people, blacks would be disproportionately represented among the faster runners, any more than I’d be surprised to find that among the same random sample, sufferers from sickle-cell anemia were more likely to be black or carriers of the gene for the Tay-Sachs birth defect were more likely to be Jewish, or even (gasp!) that the people with the highest IQs were more likely to be Asian. This is all measurable, verifiable stuff — no matter how much we’d like to ignore it.

  12. Mark Wynn says:

    As a ’78 grad of USAFA, I too am unhappy with Coach DeBerry’s comments, but I am not unhappy with Coach DeBerry.
    The purpose of the Academy is to develop the finest officers and citizens that it can. In spite of the press the last couple of years, it still does an amazing job of producing officers and citizens with high morals and integrity, devotion to our nation and selfless sacrifice. Coach DeBerry has done an outstanding job of helping instill those qualities in his players.
    We’ve never been able to get the best physical specimens in major sports, though we have great athletes; height and weight limitations and academic requirements narrow the field. I remember when we played Cal Berkley in 76; one of our starting defensive ends was 5’10” and 185 when Chuck Muncie was what 6’3″ and 230 pounds, and he could outrun almost every Air Force player! Many of the best high school student athletes that meet the academy’s stringent academic and size requirements choose to attend colleges that don’t require them to give back 5-10 years of service after graduation, limit their free time during school even more than their athletic teams do, nor place them at risk when they serve their country. And unfortunately, we’re now in the low point of the cycle that attending an Academy and serving your country is not so cool.
    The USAF Academy community has been spoiled for many years with the success of our football team, starting with Ken Hatfield in the 80’s and with Coach DeBerry at the helm. I hope Coach DeBerry doesn’t feel too much pressure to win. The purpose of sports at the Academy is to develop esprit de corps, sacrifice for the good of the team, pushing yourself when you don’t think you can go any farther, discipline, and fair play. I hope Coach DeBerry continues to develop those skills in his USAFA players.

  13. John Hay says:

    The numbers of blacks in “speed” positions in professional sports achieves much better statistical “proof” than racial numbers and ratios used to “prove” discrimination in various lawsuits.

  14. whitney says:

    OK, well…what i think needs to be looked at is why there are more black athletes than lets say…black businessmen? Coach DeBerry is insufficiently educated about social phenomina regarding black athletes in our country. This idea of blacks being genetically advanced in speed/agility is an outdated and stupid explanation. However, his feelings/ideas about black people and sports are common among most white citizens of our country. Why? Well it is true that more blacks dominate the athletic scene of our country…but did anyone ever think that its because black people are not accepted into professional, white collar jobs? Or the fact that from the time they are born, ideas about blacks being surperior athletes are constantly being reinforced through the media, school systems, and especially their own coaches? It is no wonder that so many ethnicities have turned to find success in the world of sports. I ask you this, when will the black citizen be given equal opportunities to succeed in white america? When will whites realize that it is not a genetic gift bestowed upon african americans to be athletic, but rather a binding curse implented by white america in which becoming the entertainment is the only hope of finding fame, success, or money that society allows people of color??
    *in memory of joe louis & jesse owens*

  15. What is the big deal? The man said something that for the most part is true. Why is it that a black man can say anything he wants about a white person, but if a white person says something about a black person that is true, he gets crucified by the media and other liberal imbeciles?

  16. Gary says:

    Thomas, you completely miss the point, then again, your rather esoteric explanation of the existence or non-existence of any relationship between BYU along with the issue of the American Indian, is so far removed from what I was talking about it makes me concerned that you have a prejudice with anyone who lived with “Mormons”; maybe your problem is with religion and we should go to another channel here. Stick with the point, and that is Deberry was as wrong as Jimmy the Greek.
    I taught at BYU when Steve Young was a quarterback there. He was touted as the fastest quarterback, if not the fastest back in the WAC (even with the likes of Marshall Faulk). Even in the NFL, “Black and White” linebackers and safety’s fell at his feet as he turned the corner. Even now BYU’s Todd Walker, a combination Caucasian/Black young man, is so much faster than anyone in the Mountain West that defences are shifted simply to deal with his speed. Is it his “black” heritage or his “white” heritage that caused this to happen. It is ludicrous to even talk about such things.
    This also has nothing to do with BYU’s fall or decline, rather with the stupidity of Air Force Coach Deberry’s comments. The fact that the majority of “fast college football runners” happen to be black in the USA is not genetic. To say such a thing is to demean Blacks and Whites alike since it makes a farce of anyone’s attempt to be equal. If there is a phenomenon that statistically points to more blacks in “speed positions” it would seem that to try and blame it on genetics is too broad a generalization. If blacks truly can move their legs faster, why don’t they win the Tour de France, or how was it that one of the fastest men on one of our Olympic relay teams was white, or why are there equal numbers of whites and blacks of scoring forwards in World Soccer? No, Thomas, leave your prejudices in the closet since even in your rather “deep” meanderings they seem to show through. After all isn’t it prejudice that we are talking about here, and layering your religious distaste for Mormons in the forefront of your argument seems to not only miss the mark, it makes you appear small. You either do not get it, or like to hear yourself make “fancy Harvard-like” comments like the guy in Good Will Hunting that makes a fool of himself with his blather. The point of all this is that as soon as coaches stop making excuses because of race, and tell all young men that “everyone can run fast, if they simply try,” then maybe we can get over this. But to suggest a genetic difference in speed between races buys into sweeping generalizations that harm society because of there polorizing affect. Where is there any motivation for a Caucasion young man to ever play football anymore, if what Deberry says is true. My 15 year old linebacker might as well give it up now; no college football for him now. “Lets hit the books and the slide rule.” Let’s divide society right now, and go back to the Adolf Rupp days of only white teams (of course they would be Div. II teams) in certain areas of the country. Anyone who justifies Deberry’s comments simply does not get it.

  17. whitney youre an idiot. Blacks have opportunities in this country. If Blacks spent half as much energy as they do on blaming their problems on whites towards bettering themselves there would be a lot more distinguished Black figures today like Justice Thomas or Bill Cosby (a man who should be honored for telling the truth about Black America today to the NAACP)

  18. Gary says:

    One more comment: I think if we read and feel Whitney’s comments here, we can learn what the real issue is. I think she has it. It is also not true Footballguy that Deberry cannot say anything about a black man, the problem is that he was putting down white players, and complementing black players. I as a Caucasian person was offended by his comments about my kids. If you are a white kid why play for the man now, he thinks your slow and cannot compete. That’s the point, along with what Whitney said in her comments.

  19. Thomas says:


    “This idea of blacks being genetically advanced in speed/agility is an outdated and stupid explanation.”

    Please identify the studies that have demonstrated this idea to be “outdated”.

    “but did anyone ever think that its because black people are not accepted into professional, white collar jobs?”

    Utter crap. My black classmates at USC Law School had interviewers falling all over themselves to recruit them, even those whose academic performance was only average. Americans are so ashamed of their country’s historic racism that most of them (aside from rednecks who don’t control the levers of power) go out of their way to make sure African-Americans are given greater opportunities than average, not less.

  20. Thomas says:


    Being Mormon myself and a graduate of BYU, I think your accusations of anti-Mormon prejudice are a bit silly. I simply believe that it is unconscionable to reject verifiable scientific conclusions because they make us uncomfortable. That goes as well for uncomfortable conclusions on genetic influences on average physical capacities, as for the ancestry of American Indians and some of Mormonism’s sillier historic teachings on race.

    I juxtaposed the two points to show that both secular liberals and religious conservatives pick and choose which scientific conclusiosn they will accept, and which to ignore. Follow the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

    What did you teach at BYU, by the way? Not statistics, biology, or anthropology, I’d guess from your continuing inability to see the fallacy in trying to disprove my point by pointing out that some whites are faster than some blacks.

    It says absolutely nothing about the physical potential of your own 15-year-old linebacker son that he is statistically less likely to be physically gifted than a random black athlete. He may only have a 50% chance of having won the genetic lottery for football gifts instead of a 60% chance. But he’ll never know unless he does the best he can. If he rises to the top levels of his sport (as there is an excellent chance he will), it is beside the point if the champions among whom he finds himself are disproportionately black.

    (Also, even if it turns out he may be marginally less genetically gifted than a competitor, his intensity and self-discipline can more than make up for the marginal starting disadvantage — just look at how those intense foreign basketball teams whupped our bored professional prima donnas in the last Olympics.)

    “why are there equal numbers of whites and blacks of scoring forwards in World Soccer”?

    Actually, that proves my point, since 50% of the soccer-playing population isn’t black. Blacks are therefore overrepresented.

    You wrote that coaches ought to tell people “everyone can run fast, if they simply try.” That is patently ridiculous. I simply don’t have the genetic composition to be a world-class sprinter, no matter how hard I might try. (I have short stubby penguin-like legs, which actually helped me become a great swimmer instead.)

    In the evolutionary shuffling, it does seem that a few more blacks than whites have gotten high cards. That doesn’t mean that a lot of whites haven’t also gotten kings over aces — it just means that if you look at the population as a whole, the distribution of advantages is going to be different.

    It cracks me up that liberals (rightly) ridicule “intelligent design” as a silly, pseudoscientific effort to undermine the scientific consensus on evolution — and yet they insist as an article of faith that human evolution shut down 40,000 years ago, and all populations have genetic inheritances that are identical for all major purposes, no matter how long they have developed independently of each other.

    “No, Thomas, leave your prejudices in the closet since even in your rather “deep” meanderings they seem to show through. After all isn’t it prejudice that we are talking about here, and layering your religious distaste for Mormons in the forefront of your argument seems to not only miss the mark, it makes you appear small. You either do not get it, or like to hear yourself make “fancy Harvard-like” comments like the guy in Good Will Hunting that makes a fool of himself with his blather.”

    Touched a nerve, did we? Yelling “Prejudice!” isn’t an argument, it’s an ad hominem attack. All I’m saying is that differences in genetic inheritance may go at least part of the way towards explaining the disparity in representation among world-class athletes in certain intense sports by people of African descent. I’m not stating that I know for a fact that genetic differences are all or even part of the answer; I don’t have a Ph.D in genetics and what I know on the subject is self-taught through popular literature. If you can point me to a peer-reviewed study demonstrating that environment and conditioning can account for all differences in athletic performance, I’ll change my mind.

    I suggest that if anyone is prejudiced, it’s you: prejudiced against even considering the uncomfortable idea at issue here.

  21. Wallace Haynes says:

    It is unfortunate that some people took offense at the comment made by Fisher DeBerry. I am offended that anyone was offended by DeBerry’s remark. Why weren’t those people offended by the title of the movie “White Men Can’t Jump”?

    I suggest that people who considered DeBerry’s comment to be racist did so because they themselves are racists.

    The concept of “race” is an unfortunate human failing. It is an artifice used by people to gain advantage over others. The concept should be eliminated or redefined.

    I propose that humans be reclassified into a group called “Chordata Sapiens”, consisting of vertebrates having a somewhat higher level of awareness than the other vertebrates. The group is subdivided into four “races”, each group sharing 99.9% common DNA and differing from the other groups by more than .1%. The four races I would include are: humans, chimpanzees, dolphins, and pigs.

    Now, saying that African-Americans run faster than others is only acknowledging that they may have longer leg bones, more flexible muscles, and better utilization of oxygen. These physiological differences are well within the 99.9% DNA variability and are not to be considered as “racial” differences. No one should have to apologize for publicly stating this assessment.

  22. Gary says:

    Thomas, I certainly do not think that it is productive to argue in a blog. Its kinda a vacumm. As a matter of fact I did in fact teach in an area of sociology that used statistics. Frankly, I found the students that made blanket generalizations out of statistics those with the smallest minds. Your professed “intelligent designs” seems to be simply sophomoric dribble.

    On to the subject at hand, I guess you would say that now that BYU handled Fisher Deberry’s AFA team with 62 points (with predominantly Caucasion boys)that that was a statistical anomoly. Well, that is why the constitution allows free speech; so that the spectrum of Hitlerian to silly views can be offered. (One of these days you should study the Hitlerian scientific views of the 30’s and 40’s they are strikingly similar to your analytic justifications) I am not sure whether your concepts are intended to be Hitlerian in nature, however, since they are not in the vogue, you some how justify them as new and enlightened; and anyone who does not “think about them” is shallow-Hal. Relive history and you may save yourself some time and embarassment, not to mention actual people not wanting to talk with you, or argue with you. Deberry’s comments were not intended to be enlightened new thought; they were intended to be “sour grapes” about his recruiting problems. A kinda back lash at BCS teams. If you cannot see that simple concept and continue to try and interjet a “more existential” meaning to it, you have lost the point and the arguement before you even started. Come back to earth Thomas; or should I say “Earth to Thomas, Earth to Thomas”. [Just a side note: Please also avoid justifying your silly argument with alleged “church doctrine”. You give us a bad name.]

  23. Gary says:

    Vacuum, not vacumm – fingers got going too fast

  24. Tim says:

    I am the father of a son who played varsity football for a successful team here in North Texas (state playoff qualifier 5-A) the previous two seasons. My son played multiple positions each game at the 5-A (largest schools in Texas) varsity level over those two years including Tailback, Fullback and Wide Receiver. My son played each of those positions extraordinarily well and was known locally by fans, coaches, competitors and by the North Texas papers as a true “Athlete”. This was noted by his selection to the Fort Worth paper Area Top 50 Football Players listing during the season last year in that designated “position” Athlete and by his selection to the annual Oil Bowl All Star Game between Texas and Oklahoma among other honors. My son is not only an athlete of exceptional talents as they relate to football but he is also a Caucasian and one recruited / offered to play football by Air Force among others. We have met coach DeBerry and his wife and were privileged to spend a few hours in their home in Colorado Springs during the recruiting process. In part because of this visit my son chose to attend and play football this year at the Air Force Prep School. One thing I can tell you that I am certain of…coach DeBerry is a extraordinarily religious man and has absolutely zero racist tendencies.

    This last sentence brings me to one of two main issues regarding my contacting you today and that is TO WHOM DID DeBerry APPOLOGIZE TO? I have asked my friends and associates this question over and over again “was he apologizing to the black community, to the white community or to the public in general”? If he was apologizing to the black community then I must ask “for what”? If he was apologizing to the white community then I have to ask “to whom specifically” and if he was apologizing to the community in general then I have to ask “to what end”.

    It is not a secret that it becomes evident and obvious that African-American athletes at certain levels of visibility have talents, with speed being one, that lend themselves to superior performance on the athletic fields of the world. I recall to this day being informed of this by our track coach at my Jr. High School back in 1972. This gentleman, was (he is deceased) a white coach at an all white school pointed this fact out to us (12 and 13 year olds) in a discussion of athletes of those times. He always called it the way he saw it, was ahead of his time in both social understanding as well as the intimacies of athletic training from the simple (run as close to the line as possible when rounding the curve in the 220 yard dash) to the more complex (he explained to us the concept of white and red muscle fibers). He did not see colors he saw athletes and he, earlier than most in that area, was willing to discuss openly that in general black athletes were superior to white athletes. He enlightened us in particular of the difference in speed and quickness (not necessarily a message received with open arms in that community in those days). While he was perhaps ahead of his time in understanding and certainly ahead of his time in courage to share “facts” in his community, was not the only one to see this reality.

    Today it would be hard for me to honestly accept that any rational and honest person would not readily acknowledge that there is a difference in certain talent levels between black and white athletes competing at the Division 1 football level as an example. While acknowledging this talent level in general terms I believe, as do many that it can not be applied individually as there are athletes of all skin tones who possess exceptional abilities.

    This brings me to issue number two and one that has had a direct impact on my family. How is it that coach Patterson at TCU and other Division 1 football coaches can be all upset, surprised, astonished and otherwise outraged that coach DeBerry would make such a statement as he did after the TCU game? The answer is that he “outted” those coaches dirty little secret that there is a level of discrimination against Caucasians in recruiting at the Division 1 level. It is my opinion that these coaches will not really even entertain a look at a Caucasian athlete at running back anymore (certainly they can walk on and such once at school but they are not really recruited). I have been told as much, by those who would know, both directly and indirectly (through use of key words and phrases which all who are intimate with Division 1 football are familiar with). These coaches do not want to invest time in “potential”, they do not want to waste time on “development” and they do not want to “teach” those talented Caucasian athletes in key “skill positions” that require “speed” (a known and widely acknowledged code word for black among Division 1 coaches).

    My son played Tailback with a couple of the best Tailbacks (both happen to be African-American) to come through this North Texas area recently (both play at the Division 1 level currently) and many here would tell you he did not suffer in comparison to their performance. As a matter of fact while he performed so very well in areas that are harder to measure (blocking skills – pass protection, team leadership and pressure performer) he holds the team record in a more measurable area (average yards per carry at 9.9). Both of these young men I mention above have more speed than my son does by stopwatch standards but he is still fast by the same measurement and in overall ability and end results he ranks right along side of them both (and they are all three not only outstanding football players but outstanding young men in general). My point is that, simply because of his skin color, I believe my son would have received more Division 1 interest and offers if he had chosen to play another position, say safety as an example, instead of running back / wide receiver.

    It is my opinion and therefore my reason for writing you today to say that I believe coach DeBerry was indeed apologizing, but not to the black community, the white community nor the community in general as perhaps the new Air Force Superintendent intended. I believe he was apologizing directly to my son and others like him for a system that does not give them the same level of opportunity as others of different heritage. I believe he was apologizing to me for those persons who have felt the need to question me as to how his “desire” to recruit more minority athletes” will impact my son as a future (Caucasian) Fullback for the Falcon’s. Most importantly I believe he was apologizing for the hypocrites who practice so extraordinarily well those things they were so outraged and appalled to hear coach DeBerry articulate. I believe coach DeBerry was apologizing for the secrets being kept by those in position of authority at the Division 1 football level. As we all know too well, when those in power make the rules without public scrutiny then bad things will surely follow.

    I for one think coach DeBerry should be taking a bow for his statements after the TCU game!

    Thank you for entertaining my thoughts today. Please know that I am not attempting in any way to compare this issue with the issues of racial discrimination that the black community has suffered through for so very long in this country! I would not take that leap nor would I insult those who have worked and continue to work so hard to correct those injustices. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail if you desire if you have an comments or questions regarding this communication!


  25. Gary says:

    Tim, thank you for your thoughts; they are helpful. I have paid particular attention to this blog because I have raised a nephew (his parents died of cancer) and he loves football, however, he has a tremendous self concept problem when he is compared to African American players at his same position. We are not in a predominantly mixed race area, but because of an air force base (ironically) nearby, we have a few (say 30) African American young men at his high school. The coaches at this school virtually force these minority young men to play sports. They in turn promise them (in secret) that if they play football (for example) they will give them alot of playing time. My nephew, needs sports to help him forget his loses, yet even though he now benches almost 200lbs as a Sophomore, and hits like a brick on the field, he is 3rd string. He doesn’t think he is as fast as the black players on his team so he doesn’t try as hard as he possibly could. I appreciate your comments; what I do think though is that there would have been a better way for Coach D to have said what he wanted to say. It is, however, as you pointed out, time for BCS teams to feel the sting of their conscious decisions to reverse discriminate. Soon we will see movies about a lowly “all white” school who wins the national champianship, instead of another Texas Western story (which is a good story – don’t get me wrong). That thought, in and of itself is why many fans are drawn to the Notre Dames, Air Force Academys, BYUs, and Gonzaga’s in major college sports, and away from the NBA, and soon the NFL. Something needs to be done, and that includes Whitney’s idea’s of opening up corporate America to minoritys as well. There is enough blame to go around everywhere, since conscious decisions to exclude people from major life opportunities, based on race, be it black, yellow, white, or tan, is simply wrong.

  26. Thomas says:


    I see Godwin’s Law is still in play (“As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”)

    If you’re comfortable implying I’m a Nazi, (“I don’t actually KNOW you wear a brown shirt, BUT STILL…), calling me “sophomoric” and accusing me of having a “small mind,” all I can answer is God help your students if they learned their concepts of statistical analysis from you.

    BYU’s handling of AFA did kinda blow Fisher Phillips’ argument out of the water. (On the other hand, BYU definitely could’ve used a few quick D-backs — it’s not every day you give up 41 points and still win by 20.)

    You are right that Coach Phillips’ main offense was making lame excuses for the fact that his team stinks this year. If he’d been criticized for that alone, there’d be no need for further “existential” analysis. But the criticism didn’t end there. He was accused of being “racist” for observing that there is a correlation between a team having lots of African-American athletes and having a high average running speed — thus leading us to consider what is “racist” about that observation.

    You are supposed to be a scientist, Gary. (That is, if sociology counts as a science.) Where is the room in science for your dogmatism? I can at least consider the possibility that genetics may have nothing to do with the representation of different ethnic groups among champion athletes. You take it as an article of faith — to be defended to the point of discourtesy — that this cannot possibly be true. You base your dogma not on scientific study, but on (1) your concern that if people thought genes were involved, there could be negative social consequences, and (2) anecdotes showing that some whites are faster than some blacks, which isn’t at all consistent with average differences among large populations.

    I’m well aware of the pseudo-scientific studies in “eugenics” in Germany in the 1930s (and also in the United States and most of the developed world during the first half of the 20th century). As “science,” those studies were next to worthless (especially in the Nazi case) because the pursuit of truth was subordinated to political ends, with it being signalled by the powers that be that certain conclusions were strongly desired before the research began.

    You’re not a Nazi, but you are falling into the same trap: You refuse even to consider the possibility that science may demonstrate differences in the frequency of physical traits between different ethnic groups, because it will upset your view of how things ought to be.

    I brought up “alleged church doctrine” (in fact, as you know, there’s nothing “alleged” about Hebrews being characterized as “the principal ancestors of the American Indians”, which they aren’t) to show that the failing you’ve fallen into isn’t a liberal/conservative thing, but a universal human flaw: Ultimately, for everybody, there are scientific truths we’d rather not know. We’re improving in this area (we used to send scientific heretics to the stake; now we only send them to sensitivity training), but human nature hasn’t changed much.

    If your son slacks off in football training because he thinks all African Americans must be faster than he is, you need to educate him on the concept of averages. Look at another example: Statistically speaking (and this is absolutely uncontroversial among scientists who study these things), a person of my ethnic background is less likely to have a high IQ than someone of an Asian or Ashkenazi Jewish background. Did that mean that I, in law school, should just have conceded that I couldn’t compete with my Asian and Jewish classmates? Of course not. You do the best you can — because the characteristics of an average member of a class tells you ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the characteristics of any particular member of that class.

    My ideal, as far as race is concerned, is Justice Harlan’s ideal expressed in his dissent to the atrocious Plessy v. Ferguson decision: Our society should recognize no classes among citizens; the Constitution is color-blind. If people really believed this, then it wouldn’t be too long before there ceased to be any significant differences in gene frequencies among American ethnic groups, making this whole argument moot.

  27. Mike Garrett says:

    Fisher DeBerry is a good, honest, hard working coach who has to contend with a handicapped football program. The United States Air Force Academy does not attact top athletes…it attracts potential Air Force officers.

    Coach DeBerry said nothing “racist”. He only spoke the truth. TCU’s black athletes were much faster as proved by the final score.

    Give the man a break!