College sports leadership like corporate America — mostly White


Those who run college sports are still “overwhelmingly” White and male. Such is the conclusion of the latest report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) on key leadership positions at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools and conferences.

There remains a “consistent underrepresentation” of Blacks, other people of color and women. The report shows that 88 percent of college presidents, about 86 percent of athletics directors, 89 percent of faculty athletics representatives (FARs), and 100 percent of FBS conference commissioners are White.

“College sport remains behind professional sports regarding opportunities for women and people of color for the top jobs,” wrote TIDES Director Richard Lapchick, the report’s author, in November.

Dr. Leo Lewis (Photo courtesy of U of M)

It’s worth repeating, however, that this largely explains such a low number of Blacks as head football coaches (13), the schools’ jewel sport and historically the promotional face of big-time college. This position is mostly White mainly because of White influential boosters with antebellum views in this area, which too often proves too high a barrier for prospective Black head coaches hoping to lead a big-time football program.

“Many obstacles remain to African-American coaching advancement, ranging from an overwhelmingly White administrative structure in college athletics to influential boosters who prefer to recycle the same name-brand head coaches,” wrote ESPN’s The Undefeated’s Jesse Washington last month in “An Up-and-Down Year For Black Coaches in College Football.”

But Lapchick annually points out in his college sport leadership studies that it’s not just coaching staffs that lack diversity but also the ones who hire them, and the ones who hire the ones who hire coaches. The low number of Black athletic directors — 13, and none are women — and a low percentage of Blacks as full-time faculty members — around six percent, just under four percent as Black full-time professors — also provide a bleak diversity picture.

At our local big-time university, Minnesota’s athletic and non-athletic administration roster is mainly White as well. A new White football coach was hired last week, which kept its all-White roster of school head coaches intact.

“Minnesota is not unusual. It doesn’t matter where you are, intercollegiate athletics is the same at a lot of these NCAA schools,” noted Dr. Leo Lewis, a former U of M assistant athletic director.

However, the current priority in college athletics “is making money,” and this rules how diverse college athletics is going to be, said Lewis. “College athletics now reflect corporate America, and the diversity in corporate America reflects the hiring in intercollegiate athletics. Corporate America is primarily headed by White males, and we see that in intercollegiate athletics. I believe diversity hiring just is not a priority. I don’t think that is going to change.”

Lapchick said future TIDES reports “will see what impact” the NCAA Pledge and Commitment to Promoting Diversity and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics, signed by many presidents in September 2016, will have in improving diversity in campus leadership.


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