The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) begins in October its ninth season of competition, but it has already begun its second season of working to improve race relations inside and outside the sport of hockey. The eight-team league recently teamed up with a national organization also dedicated to such aims.
RISE is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2015. Its partnership with the NCHC, which came about earlier this year and was announced in September, will include organizing activities and educational programming for league staff, players, coaches and administrators. It will primarily focus on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion along with other pertinent topics and issues.
“We continue to believe that the best in college hockey can be found within the NCHC,” League Commissioner Josh Fenton told reporters in St. Paul Sept. 16, including the MSR, during the annual Media Day to kick off the season. “We’ve entered a new world that will require us to adapt…and support student-athletes well beyond their traditional athlete and academic rigors.
“The racial injustice and inequities that played out during the summer of 2020 were impactful across our campuses,” admitted Fenton.
Earlier this year the NCHC joined the newly-formed College Hockey for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force that represents 11 Division I hockey conferences, both men and women leagues. “NCAA college hockey also recognized that more needs to be done to make our sport more inclusive and welcoming, particularly for those of color,” said the NCHC commissioner. He and Nebraska Omaha Assistant Hockey Coach Paul Gerard are the league representatives on the task force.
Fenton added, “We held an initial climate discussion with a group of student-athletes from all eight member schools. We held a similar one with coaches and staff late last spring. These initial discussions will lead to more topical-based conversations with student-athletes, coaches, and staff throughout the course of the year.”
Speaking with the MSR after his media address, Fenton said, “We’re excited about the partnership with RISE. I consider them an industry leader in the sports world in helping organizations like us do more, do better in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion [and] in particular, racial justice and social justice.
“It’s necessary work.”
College diversity lowlights
An August ESPN report found slow progress since 1981 in hiring Black college coaches and athletic directors: 39 Black football coaches and 29 Black ADs have been hired over a 40-year span.
The report lowlights included:
- All 30 Black football coaches have been hired at “power programs.”
- 20 schools have hired a Black AD, one at Minnesota.
- Over half of Power Five schools, including Minnesota, have never hired a Black football coach.
- Over 69% of Power Five schools have never hired a Black AD.
- Only four schools have hired back-to-back Black HCs (Northwestern, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Colorado).
- The Big Ten from 1991-2013 had zero Black football head coaches.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.