College sports not living up to the ideals of social justice and equal opportunity

Editor’s note: Richard Lapchick is a human rights activist, pioneer for racial equality, expert on sports issues, scholar and author.

I became a college professor 52 years ago. One of the reasons I got my PhD and decided to teach was my belief that the ideals which I hold high, including social justice and equal opportunity, would be part of everyday life on a college campus.

Fifty-two years later, I find myself disappointed each year when we release the College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC). I knew that I wanted to work toward creating more opportunity for women and people of color in professional sport. Somehow, I naïvely thought that college sports would take care of itself. So here we are more than five decades later as we release the 2021 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card, published by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. It is embarrassing that of all the report cards we do, college sports consistently has some of the worst results. This year was no exception.

On Thursday, TIDES released its 2021 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC). TIDES reviewed the racial and gender hiring practices for all three divisions. It also reviewed the NCAA national office.

College sports received a C-plus for racial hiring practices by earning 75.6 points, a sharp decrease from 80.2 points in the 2020 report card. College sports received a C. for gender hiring practices by earning 73.8 points, another sharp decrease from 77.0 points in the 2020 report card. The combined grade for the 2021 report card was a C. with 74.7 points, down significantly from 78.6 points in 2020.

The failure starts at the top of the athletic departments: 82.3%, 89.9%, and 90.5% of athletic directors at Division I, II and III, respectively, were white. And 71.6%, 68.1% and 61.3% of athletic directors were white men.

The pipeline for the AD positions is almost nonexistent for people of color. At the associate athletic director level, white people held 84.0%, 87.3% and 90.7% of these positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively. White men hold 58.0% of associate athletic positions in Division I, 51.5% in Division II, and 47.9% in Division III.

In addition, the senior woman administrator position is held by an overwhelming majority by white women, who represent 79.0%, 85.1% and 91.0% of these positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively.

Sports information directors of color in Division I decreased from 7.5% to 7.0%.

Head coaches of color in Division I for all men’s teams decreased from 13.6% to 12.7%.

Assistant coaches of color in Division I women’s teams decreased from 24.6% to 23.3%.

“We expect the best of our athletes on the field, and we should likewise expect the BEST of our leadership off the field,” Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, founder and president of Rainbow / PUSH, shared with me. “The college sports industry continues to generate billions of dollars on the backs of a hugely minority talent base. And yet, they still struggle with implementing a system and infrastructure that produces authentic diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices, positions of leadership, management and coaching. Dr. Lapchick again reports that the NCAA is maintaining a C average, which is an unacceptable grade. We cannot continue to demand A’s in performance when we can only muster C’s in leadership. College sports are unfortunately NOT living up to the ideals of social justice and equal opportunity, and this my friends must change. “

If you were an optimist, you might say it was an off year and generally things are much better. If you did, you would be dead wrong. Now 86.7% of conference commissioners are white in all of Division I. In 2007-08, 86.5% were white. Twenty years ago, 2.4% of the ADs were Black in Division I. Ten years ago it was 6.6%. Now it is only 12.2%. Better, yes. Good, no!

Many think that Division II and Division III are pipelines. If they are, the future remains white. In Division II 10 years ago, Black people held 3.5% of the AD slots. Now they hold 4.9%. In Division III 10 years ago, Black people held 2.5% of the AD slots. Now they hold 6.6%.

Don’t look for the associate ADs to fill the pipeline with people of color. Ten years ago, Black people sat in 8.5% of the seats. After a decade, Black people hold only 10% of the associate AD posts.

In part, the results include:

• In 2005-06, 25.2% of men’s Division I basketball head coaches were Black. In 2019-20, 24.3% were Black. The story goes on. In 2009-10, 6.9% of Division I head football coaches were Black versus only 8.1% in 2020-21. In 2010-11, women held 39.5% of the head coaching positions for women’s teams across all three divisions. A decade later they held only 41.3%.

And don’t look for the NCAA to lead way. In 2000, 76.6% of the administrators at the NCAA headquarters were white. Today, 76.2% are white. In 2010, 70.6% of senior executives and VPs were white. Today, 76.5% are white. In 2006, 75.9% of the managing directors and directors were white. Today, white people hold 79.6 of those positions – more white managing directors and directors than 15 years ago. Looking at full-time staff, in 2007, 76.1% were white, while today, 76.9% are white. More white full-time staff now than 14 years ago.

All of these figures exclude the HBCUs which, if included, would make the numbers look better.

The following categories increased for people of color:

• Division I athletic directors increased from 15.5% to 16.7%.

• Associate athletic directors in Division I increased from 13.7% to 14.7%.

• Head coaches of Division I football teams increased from 10.6% to 12.0%.

• Head coaches in Division I for all women’s teams increased from 16.0% to 16.3%.

• Head coaches in Division I for men’s basketball teams increased from 23.9% to 25.8%.

• Head coaches in Division I women’s basketball teams increased from 21.8% to 24.6%.

We need help to change this. Working during this period of the racial reckoning with heightened awareness could help hasten change. But the real catalyst would be athlete activists taking aim at the hiring practices. They could also pressure corporate partners to pressure the universities.

The NCAA Leadership Collective, which was announced in January 2021, has an important role to play in this effort, providing a database of candidate profiles to help increase the visibility of senior administrators and coaches of color.

Finally, there has been a great deal of critical discussion about the ineffectiveness of the Rooney Rule in the NFL. In spite of that, I continue to advocate for the adoption of the Eddie Robinson Rule and Judy Sweet Rule – two initiatives that, if adopted, would provide opportunities for women and people of color by making all senior positions as well as coaching positions require at least two diverse candidates in the final selection process. In August 2020, the West Coast Conference, led by the commissioner Gloria Nevarez, implemented the Russell Rule. Similar to the Robinson Rule and Sweet Rule, the Russell Rule requires that each of its member institutions “include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community” in its hiring process.

Arne Duncan, the former US Secretary of Education who currently co-chairs the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, described the racial and gender hiring statistics “terrible,” and said college sports should create a policy that will mandate several pools of candidates for all major positions.

Roger Floyd, a co-founder of the George Floyd Memorial Center who is the uncle of George Floyd, shared with me that “This is another example of how the life of George Floyd continues to have a positive impact in making America see the devastating effects of racism and commit to combating hatred. “

Those seeking change must push harder to keep the momentum created by the racial reckoning. Our voices need to be amplified, and our messages for diversity and inclusion to become operating principles in our athletic departments and at the NCAA headquarters.

Charlie Kruger, Candace Martin and Hannah Nelson made significant contributions to this column.

Richard E. Lapchick is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida. Lapchick also directs UCF’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, is the author of 17 books and the annual Racial and Gender Report Card and is the president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook.


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