DeBerry cites lack of minority players for struggles

Updated: October 26, 2005, 1:56 PM ET
Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry, expressing frustration Tuesday with the Falcons' slumping performance, attributed the latest loss in part to No. 20 TCU's having more black players who "can run very, very well."

DeBerry, in his 22nd year at the Air Force Academy, first mentioned the academy's lack of minority players compared to other schools while talking to reporters Monday.

He said Air Force 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.

When questioned about the remarks during his weekly luncheon Tuesday, the coach didn't hesitate to elaborate.

"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," DeBerry said in remarks first broadcast Tuesday night by KWGN-TV in Denver.

Academy officials released a statement saying they were aware of the remarks.

"We cannot comment further until we have a chance to review all the reports, the coach's actual statements and to speak with the coach personally," academy spokesman Lt. Col Laurent Fox said.

DeBerry, 67, is the winningest coach in service academy history with an overall record of 161-94-1. He has led 17 teams to winning seasons and 12 have captured bowl titles.

This season, though, the Falcons are struggling. DeBerry is facing the prospect of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since becoming coach in 1984.

Air Force lost 48-10 to TCU Saturday, dropping to 3-5 overall and 2-4 in the Mountain West Conference.

DeBerry found himself at the center of a controversy last year, too. He hung a banner in the locker room that read in part "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ" a day after the academy's superintendent announced the school would do more to fight religious intolerance.

The coach also dropped his traditional pre- and post-game prayers.

Claims that chaplains and some academy leaders impose their conservative Christian beliefs on others prompted an investigation by the Air Force, which concluded there was no overt religious discrimination at the school near Colorado Springs but found some cases of insenstivity.

The Air Force issued new guidelines on religion in August, but an academy graduate filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the school's leaders fostered an environment of intolerance.

The complaints that some cadets and faculty are evangelizing others follow a sexual assault scandal that shook the academy two years ago when female cadets said commanders punished them when they report assaults. The Air Force replaced the academy's top commanders and put new policies in place.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press