Of nearly 30 Minnesota colleges and universities’ athletic departments, only two are headed by Blacks and both are in the same Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC): Carleton College’s Gerald Young and Donnie Brooks of Macalester College.
“How about that—two Black athletic directors in Minnesota,” Brooks said with surprise.
Young, since 2010, is the MIAC’s fourth-longest tenured AD at the Northfield, Minn. school. The St. Paul-based Macalester hired Brooks last year.
“I call my first year, my first six months, ‘year zero’ when I came here in January ,” he reported. “I know that I am still learning, but if I had any thoughts as I reflected on my first year and into year two, [it was] we can do this.”
The challenges of leading a college athletic department, fielding competitive teams, and securing the necessary funds to support them are no different at these two schools than it is at larger schools, where the pressures to win might be more paramount.
Young declared, “Our coaches aren’t under the pressure of wins and losses. It is Division III. It is the true definition of student-athlete. Our number-one priority is for our student-athlete experience [to be] part of our college student experience.
“The difference is…our coaches don’t have scholarships to give a kid,” Young said of the fact that athletic scholarships are prohibited in Division III but not in Divisions I and II. “Our athletic department is considered a part of our success,” that is, of Carleton’s overall academic experience, said the physical education, athletics and recreation professor and department chair. “That’s why at Carleton our head coaches are faculty positions. It’s our faculty budget that allows us to do the things athletically.”
Another challenge that both Young and Brooks face is the fact that the 13 schools in MIAC are among the state’s most expensive colleges and universities. College Tuition Compare.com reports that the average tuition at Minnesota schools is $6,772 (in-state) and $17,173 (out-state), but Carleton ($55,612) and Macalester ($55,512) tuition and related costs rank one and two in the MIAC.
“We have over 7,000 applications a year for a school that is going to have 2,000 students,” Young added. “Our challenge is to get the best and the brightest. We are not going to compromise that aspect [for athletics].”
Brooks shared the same sentiment: “I really like to connect our needs to the mission of the college,” he pointed out. “It’s about internationalism, multi-culturalism, service to society for their long-term professional and personal experience, and excellence in education.”
Young stated, “We are all fighting for the same kid.”
The Macalester AD said that part of his role at Macalester is “to create and argue a plan for the folks in the big building with the deep pockets who can help” his athletic programs. “I will try to get that accomplished. My hope is that someday we are creating an outlet where our alumni have the opportunity to support the student-athlete experience as well.”
Brooks said he was fully aware of the MIAC before coming to St. Paul. “I thought it was one of the toughest conferences in the country,” he recalls of the nation’s 12th-oldest conference. Those thoughts now have been confirmed.
“This is the toughest Division III athletic conference in the country top to bottom,” Brooks said. “It’s highly competitive. I have incredible respect for the student-athletes, the coaches and the athletic directors.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.