College athletics, aside from the remarkable moments of competition, has been marred by scandals of unprecedented magnitude in the past 12 months. From the sexual assaults committed by Larry Nassar while employed by Michigan State University to the FBI probe that has brought to light the underground payment market of recruiting highly ranked college basketball prospects, the integrity of sport in our nation's institutions is at risk.
In the realm of amateur sport, very little competes with the excitement of March Madness. As the son of a Basketball Hall of Famer and a former player myself, the level of competition and collective pride on the road to the Final Four always provide me with great anticipation. So I hope the NCAA can address the systematic failures that led to the recruiting scandal.
Unfortunately, as the NCAA's most visible month nears, a separate problem remains prominent within its member institutions and minimal progress has been made to fix it.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) released the 2017 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card (CSRGRC) on Wednesday and the results for progress were again underwhelming. The annual report revealed that in 2017:
College sports received a C-plus for racial hiring practices by earning 78.3 points, a decrease from 78.5 points in the 2016 CSRGRC.
College sports received a C-plus for gender hiring practices by earning 75.1 points, up from 73.5 points in the 2016 CSRGRC.
The combined grade for the 2017 CSRGRC was a C-plus with 76.7 points, up slightly from an overall C-plus with 76.0 points in 2016.
This was the lowest combined grade of all the racial and gender report cards for the second year in a row after falling from an overall grade of a B with 81.2 points in 2015. Also, college sport was the only area covered to have below a B for racial hiring practices.
Out of all the areas covered in the report, the NCAA headquarters was the only one to receive high grades in racial and gender hiring. For racial hiring, the NCAA received a B-plus in senior leadership and a B in professional administration. The highlights continue into gender hiring, where the NCAA received an A-plus in both respective areas.
Here are some of the more shocking results that demand we take action if we want to foster an environment of opportunity in our country's pillars of education:
Of the total male student-athletes in Division I athletics, white males decreased to 56.8 percent in 2016-17, while the percentage of African-American males increased to 22.3 percent.
Of the total female student-athletes in Division I athletics, white females decreased to 64.9 percent in 2016-17, while African-American females decreased to 12.5 percent.
White coaches dominated the head-coaching ranks on men's teams, holding 87 percent, 88 percent, and 92 percent of all positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively. On the women's side, white coaches held 85 percent of Division I, 87 percent of Division II and 91 percent of Division III women's head-coaching positions.
In Division I men's basketball, 22.3 percent of all head coaches were African-American, which was up 1.5 percentage points from the 20.8 percent reported in the 2015-16 season, but is still down 2.9 percentage points from the all-time high of 25.2 percent reported in the 2005-06 season.
Only 7.2 percent of Division I head baseball coaches were people of color.
The number of head football coaches of color at the FBS level increased by one to 17 in 2017. Eighty-seven percent of FBS head coaches were white in the 2017 season.
When you combine the divisions, white coaches filled up 84, 91 and 95 percent of basketball, football and baseball head-coaching positions, respectively.
African-Americans were so unrepresented as head coaches in Division III that the percentage of women coaching men's teams was actually higher than the percentage of African-Americans coaching men's team (6.2 percent versus 5.0 percent).
Perhaps the most damning statistics are that more than 45 years after the passage of Title IX, women hold less than 40 percent of coaching opportunities in women's sports. Women held only 39.8 percent of the head-coaching jobs of women's teams in Division I, 35 percent in Division II and 44 percent in Division III.
Looking at all Division I conferences, excluding Historically Black Conferences, 28 of 30 commissioners were white. Ten were women. This is the same as last year's results.
As has historically been the case, white athletic directors held the overwhelming percentage of AD positions during the 2016-17 year at 86 percent, 87 percent and 93 percent in Divisions I, II and III, respectively.
Delise O'Meally, executive director of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice, commented on the pipeline for AD jobs: "The statistic that caught my attention as I read the report was the extremely low percentage of minorities in what traditionally would be considered the feeder pools for athletics director positions. When you pull the curtain aside to see who is waiting in the wings, you discover that associate athletics directors are also more than 85 percent white and if you go down even one more level, assistant athletics directors are also more than 85 percent white.
"This means that in the coming decade, despite rapidly changing national demographics, the leadership of college sport will likely continue to be more than 85 percent white -- unless these levels are diversified now, and more creative approaches are employed to ensure that college sport more appropriately reflects today's society."
There is further evidence that the NCAA should step in to act on its hiring practices when looking at the substantial gap in racial representation between head coaches and student-athletes. Of the total male-student athletes in Division I, white males made up 57 percent compared; among Division I men's team head coaches, white coaches held 87 percent of the positions in 2017.
Big East commissioner Val Ackerman noted that, "As the rosters of college sports programs have morphed over time to include more female and ethnically diverse student-athletes, our leadership should be mirroring those changes so that we can better understand and address student-athlete needs, which is a core NCAA objective. Dr. Lapchick's voluminous research identifies with precision many areas for improvement, but the onus rests with college sports decision-makers and hiring managers to take the actions needed to make continued progress a reality."
After reviewing this year's findings and looking back at the trends in previous reports, I challenge once again that the NCAA institute a change I have been an advocate for: the "Eddie Robinson Rule." In addition to this change, I would also recommend the "Judy Sweet Rule." Both are designed to improve and diversify the racial and gender hiring practices of college sport.
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 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, the senior woman administrator and the sports information director.
Katrice Albert, the NCAA's executive vice president, office of inclusion and human resources, said, "The NCAA is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its membership, which includes student-athletes, coaches and administrators. Leaders should take an introspective look at their current hiring policies and determine whether those policies are truly in line with fostering an inclusive athletics department and campus. Rules and policies centered on creating diverse candidate pools can certainly be effective, but we have to work on changing the mindsets of those who make hiring decisions which ultimately changes the numbers."
In a time where the integrity of college athletics is being questioned, the NCAA needs to take an active approach on an issue that has been ingrained in its history and can bring a great deal of positive return if addressed properly. Even as I am filled with hope each time progress is made and barriers are broken, I believe more can be done with the right rules in place.
While I commend the small steps we have made in addressing the issue of racial and gender representation in college sports, we still have a long road ahead of us.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, the founder of Rainbow/PUSH and long-time civil rights activist, summed it up well, "My friend Dr. Richard Lapchick has again presented a tremendous and thorough examination of the unjust biases that exist within college sports. The 2017 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card (CSRGRC) shows another year of unacceptable REGRETION, where the grades for gender and racial hiring practices within college ranks have decreased. The NCAA cannot avoid this ongoing injustice whereby a large majority of athletes on the field are people of color, and yet there is a severe lack of representation within the leadership of the various institutions in coaching, administration or other areas of sports management. With billions of dollars secured by television rights and corporate partnerships, there is no excuse for the NCAA to not have a more aggressive, intentional and inclusionary plan, similar to the "Rooney Rule" in the NFL, that would allow qualified minority candidates to compete for and be accepted in more roles of leadership in higher education. Our Rainbow PUSH Sports division stands with Dr. Lapchick in his continued quest for fairness and equality, and we anticipate having the opportunity to collaborate in the process of improving these statistics by creating more pathways of inclusion and advocating for greater diversity within the leadership and hiring practices of college sports.
Brett Estrella and Destini Orr contributed 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.