In college sport, it’s still a White man’s world


An unfortunate imbalance continues in college sport according to the latest report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES): White men run the show, and women in particular, in spite of Title IX, are losing ground rather than making progress.

University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Janet Fink, and (r) University of Otago, New Zealand Senior Lecturer Sally Shaw
Photo by Charles Hallman

TIDES Director Richard Lapchick said last week in “Mild Progress Continues: Assessing Diversity among Campus and Conference Leaders for Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Schools in the 2012-13 Academic Year” that key leadership in schools such as Minnesota, and major conferences such as the Big Ten “remain[s] overwhelmingly White and male.”

The telling numbers: White men (92 of 120) hold 76 percent of the college president positions, 84 percent of athletic directors (101 of 120), and 64 percent of the faculty athletic representatives (81 of 126). Whites overall hold nearly 91 percent of the 366 campus leadership positions in America.

Moreover, all 11 FBS conferences are run by White men. As a result, Lapchick points out, there’s little change in the number of Blacks in leadership roles: Four of the five Black presidents are male, and all nine Black athletic directors are males as well.  Also three of the five Black FARs are males.

Therefore, as we near the end of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, women in sport leadership positions have seen “a precipitous decline” over the past four decades, say the two featured speakers at the October 24 U of M Tucker Center fall lecture.

“Habitual and conversational sexism” exists in athletics administration, observed University of Otago, New Zealand Senior Lecturer Sally Shaw.

“We are losing ground” as women leaders, added University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Janet Fink. “A few years ago this would have been termed the glass ceiling…that keeps women from advancing to these higher ranks. The glass ceiling fails to incorporate the complexities and variety of challenges that women face on their leadership journey.”

Even if there is “an old girls’ network, [it] will never have the strength of the old boys’ network,” believes Fink, who sees instead a “labyrinth.”  I asked her later if this also includes Black females, whose leadership numbers are “even lower” than their White counterparts’. “Of course,” she responded, “but I think you would see an even more complex labyrinth.”

The “Rooney Rule” idea for college sport — a facsimile of the NFL rule mandating that all teams must interview at least one Black candidate for any head-coaching vacancies, again was proposed. “Why not a Rooney Rule, not just for females, but there aren’t many head coaches in collegiate football who are African American males as well,” continued Fink. “The NCAA has consistently taken the line that it’s a member organization, so they can’t institute that policy. But they institute other policies.”

We also talked to three individuals who are in athletics administration. One was former Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, who said, “Should there be more Black females? I’m not going to argue that. But I think the question is how do we get there? It’s not as easy a fix as one would think.”

Maturi’s successor, Norwood Teague, said the NCAA has in place “cultivating” programs for Blacks and other women of color “to network and develop what they need.” However, he neglected to mention that these programs are only available to those Black females already employed at a particular athletic department.

“It’s going to take leadership” to improve the numbers of Black females in college sport leadership, urged U of M Associate Athletics Director Leo Lewis, the only Black on the staff. “I’m hoping I can change that.”

However it’s not easy, especially when the problem mainly lies in cultural conditioning: “People in general tend to think that men are smarter than women,” noted Fink. I’d add that too much thinking that Black people are inferior and White people superior exists as well.

“One of the things we often don’t talk about is the intersectionality between race and gender, and sometimes even homophobia, race and gender,” stated Fink. “[There are] even more barriers for them. It’s even more difficult to tackle.”

As Lapchick and others easily confirm, “We live in a male-dominated world,” Maturi said. “That doesn’t make it right… It’s not easy to change.”


Gopher volleyball to Sweet 16

Gopher frosh Daly Santana and Creighton soph Leah McNary were the only athletes of color on the court last Saturday in the NCAA volleyball second-round match, won by Minnesota (26-7) in four sets.

Jays Coach Kirsten Benthal Booth calls the outside hitter “Air McNary” — “People look at her and say she’s small (at 5-10), but she touches 10-3,” notes the head coach.

“It definitely was a fun journey, but tonight’s loss was tough,” said an emotional McNary, who led Creighton (29-4) in kills. “I’m looking forward to next year.”

Santana had a combined 21 kills and 20 digs in the two victories last weekend. Said the Puerto Rican first-year player afterwards, “I’m happy that I helped the team out. We keep moving forward [to the NCAA Sweet 16 this week].”


Did you know…?

The first Black female to ever serve as commissioner of an NCAA-affiliated conference assumed her duties in September. Name her and the conference. (Answer in next week’s “View.”)

Answer to last week’s question: How many Black College Football Classic Games are held each year? Thirteen — Aggie-Eagle Classic, Labor Day Classic, Southern Heritage Classic, Palmetto Capital City Classic, Atlanta Football Classic, State Fair Classic, Morehouse-‘Skegee Classic, Magic City Classic, Capital City Classic, Fountain City Classic, Bayou Classic, Florida Classic and Turkey Day Classic.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to