<
>

Collegiate athletic leadership gets poor marks in diversity

Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos/Getty Images

America is divided. Acts of hate have proliferated in this country ever since the November 2016 presidential election. In the month after the election, there were more than 1,000 hate incidents recorded. That's 10 times the number in an average month. The world of sports has not been immune. According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), at the University of Central Florida, between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15 of 2017, racism in sports was reported 76 times, when the average is 10 incidents per month. If 2017 ends with an overall increase in hate crimes, and it is on a path to do so, it would be the third-consecutive annual rise in these acts. This is something America has not seen since 2004, according to Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

In such times, I call on our education leaders to rise to the occasion, and I also believe that sports can play a role in healing this kind of national discord. However, this is difficult to achieve when leadership roles on campuses across the country, including those in athletics, are overwhelmingly held by people of the same race and gender.

The key leadership positions at the major schools that play football at the FBS level and conferences remained overwhelmingly white and male, according to a new study released by TIDES. When the makeup of decision makers at our universities does not reflect that of our country, it is difficult to communicate a vision that resonates with the entire population. We started doing this study because the Racial and Gender Report Cards (RGRCs) we publish showed that colleges were the worst employers for people of color and women in their respective athletic departments. We wanted to see who the key people making the hiring decisions were by identifying the presidents, athletic directors and faculty athletic representatives.

According to the 2017-18 report from TIDES, women and people of color in leadership positions on the 130 FBS campuses remain highly underrepresented, with little action being taken to address this fact. For example, 89.2 percent of presidents were white, 83.1 percent of athletic directors were white, 87.4 percent of faculty athletic representatives were white and 100 percent of conference commissioners were white. In those positions, 72.3, 77.7, 59.3 and 90 percent were white men, respectively.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition, shared, "With the enormous number of people of color represented on the field, there must be a concerted effort to provide more diversity in leadership off the field."

For the first time in the history of this report, TIDES has used its RGRC grading system to assess the hiring practices of campus and athletic department leadership of FBS schools. Overall, the grade for racial hiring practices in FBS leadership was a D+, and the grade for gender was an F. I felt it was necessary to assign a grade to the report this year because it helps demonstrate the gravity of the situation and the sheer lack of representation of women and people of color within the leadership at FBS institutions. A student with these grades in any of these institutions of higher education would either be expelled or put on probation with this record.

To further highlight the report's findings, hiring for campus presidents received an F in both race and gender, hiring for athletic directors received a B- in race and an F in gender, and the appointment practices of faculty athletics representatives at FBS schoolsreceived a D+ and a C in race and gender, respectively. Overall, the report showed very modest increases in the representation of women and people of color compared to the 2016-17 results.

Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education, said "The TIDES study shows an appalling lack of diversity in the FBS's marquee sport of football and a dearth of institutional commitment to diversity. Close to 60 percent of FBS football players are African-American, but just 11 percent of the FBS's 130 head football coaches and 34 percent of assistant football coaches are African-American men."

Based on these findings, it is clear that women and people of color face massively unfavorable odds when seeking leadership positions in college sports. However, I would like to highlight two signs of hope that are outlined in the data collection for this year's RGRC. To start, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, hired Desiree Reed-Francois as the first Latina in history to lead an FBS athletics department when she was chosen to succeed interim AD Tina Kunzer-Murphy on June 1, 2017. Also, just four months later, Carla Williams became the first African-American woman to lead an FBS athletics department when she was selected to succeed Craig Littlepage as the University of Virginia's AD.

I have faith in those who have been able to challenge history and beat the odds like Reed-Francois and Williams have. I also believe they will act as sparks of change in our industry. The 2017-18 report has shown that the student-athlete population of FBS football teams is becoming increasingly more diverse. People of color now represent 61 percent of football student-athletes, a 2.2 percent increase from 2016. Now, more than ever, those playing on the field need diversity in leadership to foster a safer and more inclusive campus environment.

For now, I believe it is critical for the NCAA to institute a change I have been advocating for: the "Eddie Robinson Rule." In addition to this change, I would also recommend the "Judy Sweet Rule." Both rules are designed to improve and diversify the racial and gender hiring practices of college sports. The Eddie Robinson Rule would initiate opportunity for a diverse pool of candidates for every opening for a men's and women's head-coaching position in Division I. On the women's teams, this would include making it mandatory that two-thirds of the candidates interviewed be women. The Judy Sweet Rule would require a diverse pool of candidates, including women and people of color, for all senior administrative positions at both the NCAA headquarters and in Division I college athletic departments. At the college level, this would include the athletic director, associate athletic directors, assistant athletic directors and the sports information director.

Since the NCAA adopted the Pledge and Commitment to Promoting Diversity and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics, in September 2016, 838 schools and 102 conferences have signed the pledge as of Oct. 6, 2017. However, only 13.4 percent of campus leadership positions in athletics were held by people of color, and just 17.7 percent were held by women. I ask the current leadership to place more emphasis on getting in the game of social justice. We can do something for the future of our children in a country that is learning to divide itself and hate. We need our leaders in higher education to communicate this vision, but that leadership needs to look more like the people in America. As highlighted previously, we are showing signs of slow progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Duncan, who now chairs the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said, "The diversity pledge that universities have signed onto is just a small, first step that has to be followed by action, not rhetoric, on the part of the FBS conferences." Duncan added that the TIDES study shows "it is time for two simple actions. First, each institution should publish annual data on the racial and gender diversity of their athletics administration and coaching staffs so football recruits have better information about the diversity hiring practices of the schools recruiting them. Second, the College Football Playoff board of managers has a great opportunity to show leadership by adopting a Knight Commission recommendation that at least one penny of every dollar of the $438 million generated annually by the College Football Playoff be devoted to boosting coaching diversity."

Delise O'Meally, executive director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport, commented, "These numbers show us that college sports as an industry still has not embraced the concept of diversity and inclusion as a business imperative. While academia generally understands the value of diversity in a learning environment and actively seeks to diversify the classroom, athletics still lags behind and fails to live up to these ideals.

"It is astounding that despite rapidly growing diversity among student-athletes, athletic leadership at the FBS level remains more than 85 percent white and almost 77 percent male. This means that women and people of color are either not given the opportunity to enter, or advance, through the pipelines because of the roles in which they are hired and that implicit egotism and other subconscious biases continue to impact hiring practices, resulting in the homogeneity we still see today.

"Academia gets it. Corporate America gets it. But college sports, sitting somewhere in between these two entities, continues to flounder and miss the mark."

Brett Estrella made significant contributions to this column.

Richard E. Lapchick is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida. Lapchick also directs UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, is the author of 16 books and the annual Racial and Gender Report Card, and is the president of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport. He has been a regular commentator for ESPN.com on issues of diversity in sport. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook.