No way to celebrate Title IX: The poor hiring records of select college conferences

Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire

The Big Ten was one of several conferences that received poor grades for their hiring practices from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

This is the 45th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the landmark legislation that helped create opportunities for women and girls to play sports. Their ability to run the sports that they play was supposed to follow their increasing numbers on the playing field. 

But it's obvious that progress is not occurring when looking at "Gender, Race and LGBT Inclusion of Head Coaches of Women's Teams: A Report on Select NCAA Division I Conferences for the 45th Anniversary of Title IX," a new document on the hiring practices of college athletic programs. Of the 16 grades awarded to the eight conferences covered for gender and racial hiring practices, there were twice as many F's as there were B's. All of the F's were as a result of terrible records on the hiring practices of people of color on women's teams. I have been writing Racial and Gender Report Cards for 25-plus years and have never graded any league or college sport in general with an F. Having four conferences get an F was a stunning result. But the record for hiring women to coach women's teams was even more abysmal because these are women's teams.

Thus I am making a call to action to advance the issue of equality in hiring practices in college sports. I wanted to help write this report because I recognize that our conference commissioners are powerful influencers on college sports. Seeing these terrible results will, I hope, move the commissioners of these eight and the other Division I conferences to take action. I have suggested some of those actions later in the column.

The report was produced by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota and LGBT SportSafe. It was the first report to include the LGBT issue along with race and gender. The request for the report came from the Women's Sports Foundation Sports Action Network last October.

Race and gender data for head coaches of women's teams was collected for eight select NCAA Division I conferences including the Power 5 (ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12), and the American Athletic Conference, the Ivy League and the Big East. The American was included because of its potential to be a viable addition to the Power 5 to create a "Power 6." Finally, the Big East and the Ivy League, which both have female commissioners, were included to examine whether having a woman as a commissioner influenced inclusion efforts.

Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, co-director of the Tucker Center, said, "We at the Tucker Center often work in collaboration on research projects, and this special report for the 45th anniversary of Title IX pertaining to women coaches is no exception. This report is a groundbreaking effort by three leading entities to paint a more comprehensive picture of the landscape of big time college sport for women of all intersectional identities, and for that, we are grateful to our colleagues. It is only with data can we track progress or decline in inclusion efforts. It is a fitting tribute to the 45th anniversary of Title IX."

As reported by the Tucker Center, the results of the gender hiring practices for head coaches of women's teams were disheartening. Overall, a majority of the coaches were male (56.9 percent), while only 43.1 percent were female. The Ivy League, with 55 percent, had the highest percentage of women coaches across the eight conferences while the Big 12 had the lowest with 32.7 percent. While the Ivy League had a B, all the others had a C or D.

The grades and percentages of female head coaches of women's teams for all eight conferences studied were:

  • Ivy League: B (55 percent)
  • American: C (47.3 percent)
  • Pac-12: C (46.7 percent)
  • Big Ten: C (46.4 percent)
  • ACC: C (40.1 percent)
  • Big East: D (39.4 percent)
  • SEC: D (34.2 percent)
  • Big 12: D (32.7 percent)

As a whole, the grades of these eight conferences average 43.1 percent which is a C. Other studies, such as the 2016 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card, show more than 60 percent of women's teams across all three divisions are coached by men.

On a positive note, the two schools with the highest percentage of female head coaches of women's teams were Cincinnati and the University of Central Florida, which were the only schools that got the equivalent of an A with 80 percent of their head coaches being women. Including Cincinnati and UCF, the top 10 schools regarding percentage of female coaches of women's teams were Princeton (70.6 percent), Columbia (66.7 percent), Washington (63.6 percent), South Florida (62.5 percent), Oklahoma (60 percent), Miami (60 percent), Northwestern (58.3 percent), and Tennessee (58.3 percent).

UCF was the only school to get an A for both race and gender, as 30 percent of its head coaches are coaches of color.

The data on racial hiring practices, collected by TIDES, was equally disappointing. Overall, 87.9 percent of head coaches across the conferences were white, while only 6.9 percent of head coaches were African-American. Additionally, Latino and Asian coaches accounted for 2.8 percent and 2.2 percent of women's team head coaches, while Hawaiian/ Pacific Islanders accounted for less than 1 percent of head coaches of women's teams.

Regarding specific conferences, the American Athletic Conference (AAC) received the highest grade of a B as a result of 18.2 percent of its head coaches being of color. The AAC was the only conference to receive a B, while all other conferences included in this study received grades of C or F. Four of the eight conferences received an F for racial hiring practices. The Ivy League received the lowest F grade since only 8.6 percent of its head coaches were of color.

The grades and percentages of head coaches of color of women's teams for all eight conferences studied were as follows:

  • American: B (18.2 percent)
  • Pac-12: C (14.2 percent)
  • ACC: C (13.9 percent)
  • Big 12: C- (13.3 percent)
  • Big East: F (10.6 percent)
  • SEC: F (9.9 percent)
  • Big Ten: F (9.3 percent)
  • Ivy League: F (8.6 percent)

The most alarming result of the racial hiring practices observed in this study was that 27 of the 94 schools examined had no coaches of color leading their women's teams. The SEC had the highest number of women's sport programs with 100 percent white coaching staffs at seven.

In addition to evaluating the racial and gender hiring practices of these institutions, this was the first time that LGBT inclusion was examined. LGBT SportSafe member institutions did not receive a grade in this first-of-its-kind report card, but instead received special recognition of inclusion efforts. There are eight LGBT SportSafe member institutions and seven of these institutions earned gold medallions and one institution earned the silver medallion. The gold medallion institutions are Oregon, USC, Northwestern, Nebraska, UNC, UCLA and Temple and the silver medallion institution is Cal-Berkeley.

Nevin Caple, the founder of LGBT SportSafe, noted, "The institutions that have joined LGBT SportSafe have shown exceptional leadership, pioneering a commitment to inclusion in college athletics. This not only benefits those who identify as LGBTQ, but student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators of all sexual and gender identities."

Delise S. O'Meally, executive director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport, went right to what should be the focus of college sport: the effect of these inequities on student-athletes. O'Meally said, "This special report illuminates in glaring fashion, the issue of underrepresentation among the major Division I conferences relative to their hiring practices in women's sports ... we must also consider the impact on student athletes who are growing up as part of the most diverse generation in this country's history. It is well known that self-efficacy increases where young people have the opportunity to see greater diversity in leadership and mentoring positions.  When we consider that 45 years after Title IX, less than 45 percent of head coaching positions in women's sport are held by women, we must wonder about the opportunities lost not only for coaches but for those female student-athletes who could have benefited from a female role model.  When we consider that the percentage of coaches of color in women's sport remains below 20 percent, with women of color probably representing only a fraction of that percentage, we must wonder about the impact on our female student athletes of color."

Judy Sweet, the first woman to be an athletic director and the first woman to be NCAA president, hammered the needs home. "This informative and important research reveals the critical need for more inclusive and diverse hiring practices in college sport. It is incumbent upon university presidents and athletics directors to develop inclusive hiring policies, embrace and actuate such policies, and make a commitment to recruiting, interviewing and hiring women and persons of color for leadership positions as coaches and administrators. Universities should be held accountable for ensuring a diverse workplace. We owe it to our student-athletes."

My Call to Action

The current process in college sports is a failure. We need more firepower.  Reflecting on these overwhelmingly discouraging results, I call on all eight conference commissioners to:

1. Distribute the results to all conference member presidents and athletic directors and have an open discussion about diversity and inclusion that is solution-oriented at the next full conference meeting.

2. Get the conference to adopt the "Eddie Robinson Rule" for men's teams and the "Judy Sweet Rule" for women's teams. The Eddie Robinson Rule would initiate opportunity for a diverse pool of candidates for every opening for a men's head-coaching position in a conference member institution. On the women's teams, the Judy Sweet Rule this would include making it mandatory that two-thirds of the candidates interviewed are women. I strongly believe that each of these conferences has the power to make a positive change in their racial and gender hiring practices through the implementation of these rules. I hope the leaders of these conferences see the opportunity they have to diversify their coaches and provide role models that reflect all of their student-athletes. The NCAA says its membership will not agree to the Eddie Robinson or Judy Sweet Rule. They will not have to if conferences become the role models.

3. Bring LGBT SportsSafe to each of their campuses to assure a safe environment for members of the LGBT community.

4. Get the NCAA to devote resources to create and maintain a centralized list of diverse candidate pools that member institutions can review to find candidates for all senior positions, thus reducing the cost and duplication for each school to find candidates on their own.

• I call on the 24 Division I conferences not covered in this report to do a self-audit of their conferences' hiring records and then follow action steps 1, 2 and 3 above.

• I call on all Division II and Division III conference commissioners to do a self-audit of their conferences' hiring records and then follow action steps 1, 2 and 3 above.

• I call on the Women's Sports Foundation's Sports Action Network (SAN) to create a Hall of Honor for those conferences and member institutions with the best hiring records for women and people of color as an incentive to be more equitable. The NCAA should support SAN and the National Association for Coaching Equity and Development (NAFCED) which advocates for coaches of color.

• I call on the NCAA to make the hiring practice results of the conferences and member institutions available in a public place so that high school student-athletes considering what college to attend know what the entire slate of coaches look like -- and not just the coach recruiting them.

• I call on each conference member institutions to:

1. Include more women and people of color in top decision-making roles by always having a diverse pool of candidates for all senior job opening in the athletics department.

2. Establish diversity targets for the department. Incentivize hiring managers to expand searches to increase the talent pool.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said, "This is the latest and the most thorough report on this matter of racial and gender inclusion. We must accept Richard's recommendations for healing. We must remember the key to growth is understanding that inclusion is value added -- not the cost of doing business."

Forty-five years after the passage of Title IX, millions of girls and women have reaped the benefits of playing sports. Sixty-three years after the Supreme Court mandated school integration in Brown vs. the Board of Education, children of color go to integrated schools and play sports on the same teams as white children. We need to kick down the remaining doors so those who coach our teams look more like those playing on our teams.

Richard E. Lapchick is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management graduate program in the College of Business Administration 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. Todd Currie and Destini Orr contributed to this column.

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