SWAC commish reflects on Big Ten’s expansion

Michael Wade 2022 SWAC Football Media Day – July 21, 2022

Sports Odds & Ends

Earlier this summer, the Big Ten sent college sports into a tailspin when it announced its expansion plans to become a coast-to-coast conference in a couple of years. The shockwaves are still being felt as other conferences scramble to either keep pace or survive altogether.

We’ve seen the impact on the big-time conferences, but what about the Black college leagues?

“We have a tradition that has lasted 101 years,” declared SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland during the 2022 conference football media day. Nearly 300 media members attended either in person or, in the MSR’s case, virtually.

“We do not want to be reactionary,” the commissioner said to a reporter’s question. “It’s our responsibility to ensure that our students are comfortable with what we’re doing, that we’re bringing in the revenue.”

The SWAC or Southwestern Athletic Conference is made up of historically Black colleges and universities that consist of 10 member schools hailing from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, with 10 women sports and eight men. 

“The strength of our league and the growth of our league has really put us in a unique and unprecedented position,” continued McClelland, who has led the league since 2018. He then corrected the reporter.

“First of all,” said the commissioner, “we already view us as a super conference. We’re not going to expand just for the sake of expanding. We don’t want to stretch from sea to shining sea.”

But McClelland also noted, “If we bring in someone, someone that fits our academic profile,” then the possibility of expansion will be explored.

McClelland earlier this summer was named chair of the Division I men’s basketball committee for the 2023-24 season. He has been on the committee since 2019, and until he takes over will serve as vice chair for the upcoming school and sports year.

“To be selected by your peers to the vice chair and consequently chair,” said McClelland, “is overwhelming.  To be elevated to this level is not just a win for Charles. This is for the Southwest Conference.”

Back to football, McClelland predicted “an unprecedented football season. Great coaches, great atmosphere, great environment.”

U of M Tucker Center’s annual report

The University of Minnesota Tucker Center for the past 10 years has tracked the percentages of women head coaches in Division I. This year’s annual report “points to some good news!” the organization stated earlier this summer.

Women head coaches of color percentages “is increasing very slowly,” noted the Tucker Center report: 81 in basketball (22.7%), 42 in volleyball (12.3%), 28 in track and field (8%), 26 in tennis (8.5%) and 20 in softball (6.7%)

As for Division I conferences, nearly 90% of SWAC’s female coaches are POC while the Summit League has barely 8%. The Big 12 had zero women head coaches of color.

“At this rate of increase, averaging 0.4% a year,” said the report, “we will not reach 50% of women head coaches in this report for another 17 years, and will not reach pre-Title IX levels (90%) of head coaches of women’s intercollegiate teams for 117 years.

“Second, women coaches of color remain dramatically underrepresented,” the study concluded. “A large number of institutions (including Minnesota) and one conference (Big 12) employed zero coaches of color, which does not reflect the racial composition of the student-athletes.”