A call for action to force more diversity in college sport leadership

Latest report shows little or no voluntary improvement

Richard Lapchick (Twitter/Richard Lapchick)

What does diversity in sport really mean? Should it resemble what America really looks like or the America most of us hope for? This is what The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) has been asking regularly through its Racial and Gender Report Cards (RGRC) since the late 1980s.

TIDES last year upped its grading standards on race and gender based on the most recent Census that shows all people of color in this country, almost 35 percent of the total population. For example, to get an A for race, you’d need to have at least 30 percent people of color, and 45 percent women for an A as well.

Division I college sport leadership at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools and conferences, in the latest RGRC that came out October 3, scored an overall D, a C for racial hiring, and an F for gender hiring. “The results show very little deviation from last year’s findings, but do show a slight improvement in the overall grade,” the TIDES executive summary points out.

We narrowed down the 15-page report to three areas:

  • “Biggest improvement” — one of two new women athletic directors is Black.
  • “Minor increases” — there’s one Black woman president, one more from last year.
  • “Constant underrepresentation” of Blacks, other people of color and women in leadership positions: 14 percent of presidents are people of color, and 17 percent women; 11 Black men and one Black female out of 130 ADs; 14 Black head football coaches out of 130; and all 10 FBS commissioners are White.

The 2018 College Sport RGRC moreover shows that Whites hold over 85 percent of the 395 campus leadership positions, and White men hold 73 percent of the 130 presidents.

The University of Minnesota, an FBS school, is currently searching for a new president. The “U” supposedly has a presidential search committee that is diverse, but odds are it won’t make a diversity dent when it’s all said and done.

Athletic Director Mark Coyle last week got a contract extension from the school’s regents. Only two Blacks are part of his 20-member senior administration staff. The Gopher head coaching roster has been all White since Tubby Smith learned he was fired by watching ESPN in 2013. Only three Black men and one Black female have been head coaches at the school, and there has been only one Black AD and one Black female temporarily in charge of athletics in school history as well.

Minnesota is among 862 schools and 102 conferences that signed the NCAA Commitment to Promoting Diversity and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics pledge since it was introduced in 2016. But the pledge is non-binding, and the NCAA can’t enforce it.

“There virtually has been no change,” TIDES Director Richard Lapchick said in an MSR phone interview. Lapchick believes that on-field diversity on the football sidelines should at least be reflective of its sport’s population — there are 18 head coaches of color in total nationwide while over 54 percent of football players are of color. It’s not that much better in basketball, either, and its player population is this high or higher percentage-wise.

“What we need is action,” Lapchick said. “I believe it will be student-athlete activism as well as professional athletes demanding more representation of people who look like them in the coaching ranks at the professional level as well as the college level. The roster of people in the athletic department” should be more reflective as well, he said.

The full report can be read and downloaded at www.tidesport.org.