Trailblazing AD aims to develop diverse pipeline of talent

Second in a series

The MSR recently attended a four-day virtual “So You Want A Career in Athletics” (SYWACIA) sports leadership academy for girls and young women of color in sports. Afterward, several panelists and speakers agreed to share with us, as they did with the attendees, their individual career journeys and lessons learned in their fields. Coaching, executive leadership, sports medicine, and entrepreneurship will be addressed in this multi-part series.

This week: Being first and only is not enough

Being the first Black female collegiate athletic director in Louisiana might be a nice introductory point, but Dillard University Athletic Director Kiki Baker Barnes doesn’t want to be the only one.

Diversity should be more than hiring one or two Blacks, not just for AD positions but for all positions in athletics from the bottom to the top.

There are nearly 30 NAIA athletic directors who are Black or people of color, including Barnes at Dillard. “There can’t be the diversity [we strive for] because they only got hired because they’re Black,” she stressed.

Related Story: Academy shows young women how to succeed in sports careers

Currently, the state’s only intercollegiate athletic director, Barnes also is the interim commissioner of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) in the NAIA. She’s a four-time GCAC Athletic Director of the Year winner, most recently in 2020-21.

Barnes since 2006 has led the Dillard athletics department—she did double duty as AD and WBB head coach until 2013. Overall, she was tasked with rebuilding the school’s athletics after Hurricane Katrina, including new sports teams and the establishment of Dillard’s first endowed athletic scholarship.

“I definitely think we’re in a much better place,” Barnes told us last month. “We are reimaging what our university looks like and trying to figure out how we will move it forward.”

Submitted photo Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes

Wearing many hats, including running her own business So You Want a Career in Athletics (SYWACIA) sports leadership academy to develop future Black female leaders, is basically old hat for Barnes.  “I’ve been juggling many hats like this for a very, very long time,” she said proudly.  “I’m a master of juggling a lot of things. I became very good at that and having high levels of success in the things that I’m doing. This really is a special gift from God.

“I do a lot of mental mapping,” continued Barnes, “where I sit down, and I put all of my ideas on paper. Once I have it all out of paper, and I can see it then, I organize a plan to get it done.”

A new study by Arizona State University’s Global Sport Institute analyzed a 10-year period of AD changes (2010-2019). It overall found that college sport is overwhelmingly White and male, among other findings:

  • Black women and other people of color made small gains, a 2% increase of Black ADs (17 to 19 %)
  • At least 30 White men were hired in every year studied except one; no Black hirings reached double digits

“There has been progress, minimal,” observed Barnes. “I believe that we won’t see the real progress until about five to 10 years from now. I feel it takes time to get the change that we want to see.

“The key piece is we have to make sure that we have a pipeline of young people ready when the opportunity presents itself,” said the Dillard AD on why SYWACIA is both needed and important. “If we haven’t ensured that the pipeline is ready when we retire, we’re not going to be replaced with people that look like [me].

“I’m going to start working with these young ladies from high school and college,” pledged Barnes.  “We’ve got to make sure they do it. We’ve got to make sure they’re good. We have to make sure that they understand the weight that kind of rides off your shoulder.

“So, hopefully within 10 years, they will have gotten the maturity, they will have the network they need so when that time comes, they’d be prepared,” she concluded.

Next week: A Black athletic trainer