Juwan Howard

We are officially one month away from Selection Sunday for the 2021 March Madness NCAA College Basketball Tournament. One year ago, the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the NCAA will require teams to register seven consecutive days of negative tests before making the trip to Indianapolis for the tournament.

“We have procedures and protocols in place that should not eliminate teams from the entirety of the tournament as long as they’re maintaining that physical distancing and wearing masks,” said NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt.

The style of the tournament will be in a bubble format as well.

“The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event,” Gavitt added.

The tournament normally sends teams to different stadiums and arenas around the country in four main regions. Unfortunately, that can't happen right now.

Back in 1966, Texas Western College defeated the blue-chip program University of Kentucky in the NCAA men's college basketball championship final at Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland. This marked the first time that an all-Black starting five had won the NCAA championship. Current Miami Heat Team President Pat Riley was on that Kentucky team.

Now, 55 years, many of those blue-chip programs and top schools across the nation have recognized the talent of Black players, resulting in many more national championships since. While many players on college basketball teams are Black, the number of Black coaches is low. If college basketball had a reasonable degree of racial equity, there would be a larger share of Black coaches. Black coaches also face challenges in career advancement after being hired. Teams' internal personnel, such as athletic directors, play major roles in the hiring process – acting as gatekeepers – and they are typically white.

The names that come to mind when you think of Black college basketball coaches are legends John Chaney from Temple University and John Thompson Jr. from Georgetown University. We recently lost both of them, with Chaney passing away on Jan. 26 and Thompson dying on Aug. 26, 2020. The last Black coach to win the national championship was Kevin Ollie at the University of Connecticut (2014). The torch has been passed and the few Black coaches in the NCAA now have a responsibility to continue the work where these legendary coaches left off. Some top programs this year with Black coaches are Juwan Howard at the University of Michigan, Kelvin Sampson at the University of Houston, Shaka Smart at the University of Texas, Cuonzo Martin at the University of Missouri and Leonard Hamilton at Florida State University.

Chaney

Howard got his first coaching experience with the Miami Heat as an assistant and finally got the opportunity to lead Michigan, his alma mater, as head coach in 2019. When hired for the coaching position Howard said, “I am the only Black head coach in the Big Ten, which I’m very proud of; I don’t understand why there isn’t more but I’m just gonna try and do the best job I possibly can for the University of Michigan to help spear our student-athletes to become successful within basketball, but more importantly successful in life.”

The men’s tournament will be played in Indianapolis and the women’s tournament will be in San Antonio. Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 14 (men) and March 15 (women). The Final Four is set for April 3 and April 5 (National Championship Game) for the men and April 2 and April 4 (National Championship Game) for the women.

Florida Memorial University will not be participating in the NCAA tournament but will have senior day on Saturday, Feb. 20. The women’s basketball team will play St. Thomas University at 2 p.m. and the men’s team will play St. Thomas University at 4 p.m.