Diversity in College Sports Continues to Lag Behind the Pros - Higher Education
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Diversity in College Sports Continues to Lag Behind the Pros

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by Lois Elfman


There is good news and discouraging news in the “2010 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card” issued on Thursday by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. The combined grade for racial and gender hiring practices is a B, which the study’s principal author Dr. Richard Lapchick describes as “average.”

“College sport has to recognize that all of the major pro sports now have gotten either an A or an A- for racial hiring practices. Even though the B is an improvement (the last grade for racial hiring practices was C+), among the people who organize high level sports in America, college sport is in last place with that B,” says Lapchick.

The good news first: the number of African-American head football coaches in Football Bowl Subdivisions institutions has increased significantly over the past few years. Eighteen head coaches of color will start the 2011 season, which is more than double the number four years ago.

Then there is the other side: 100 percent of the conference commissioners at the 11 FBS conferences are White males. Throughout Division I athletics, excluding HBCU schools, 100 percent of conference commissioners were White, which includes five women.

The majority of athletic director positions at colleges and universities are held by White people, with little or no change since the report card in 2008. Women athletic directors gained a bit of ground in Divisions I and III, with 8.3 percent of athletic directors in Division I and 27.4 percent in Division III. There is little racial diversity among the women in Division I.

“We’ve got to get more women in those higher level jobs,” says Lapchick. “The only way that’s going to happen is publicizing this type of data as well as pressing both within the schools and their alumni and the public in general.

“You can just look at the numbers of African-American women who have any kind of influential positions in college sports and basically they don’t exist,” he adds. “The more people that know how bad it is, the more possibility there is to have a breakthrough.”

There are even challenges in the dissemination of information. The report card gave F’s to college sport for both race and gender hiring practices in Sports Information Director (SID) positions—dubbing SIDs “the whitest positions in all of sport.” In Division I, the SID position is 95.4 percent White, 1.4 percent African-American and 1.9 percent Latino.

Sadly, the underrepresentation of women and minorities in sports media is also an issue. Therefore, Lapchick encourages those who read the report or learn about it to be loud in voicing their displeasure with the findings.

“It’s not just publishing the report, but it’s about having people follow up, including ourselves, with pressure. Keep it as an issue before the public,” he says.

The one place where there is no lack of diversity is among student-athletes. 24.9 percent of all Division I male athletes are African-American. In Division I basketball, African-Americans account for 60.9 percent of the athletes and Whites are 30.5 percent. Surprisingly, there was a decline in the percentage of African-American head basketball coaches, which is alarming as that is a sport where African-Americans are better represented in the coaching ranks.

In Division I women’s basketball, 65.9 percent of the head coaches are women with 11.4 percent of them being African-American. Only 3.9 percent of women’s basketball head coaching positions in Division I are held by African-American males.

This is a discouraging number to Machli Joseph, head coach of a successful Division III program at Baruch College, who has aspirations of being a head coach in Division I someday.

“If you’re competing for a job, I think the statistics prove what it is,” Joseph says. “That’s why a lot of us Black males who are in this field have to represent all the Black males out there to show that not only we’re qualified, but we’re capable of running a successful program.”

Joseph sees Syracuse University women’s basketball head coach Quentin Hillsman as a role model. He is “changing mindsets of athletic directors” when they see his players his action.

“We need about five or 10 of those guys around the country to be game-changers and create more opportunities,” Joseph says.

Lapchick says a route to this is to create an “Eddie Robinson Rule” akin to the Rooney Rule in pro football. This mandates a diverse pool of candidates must be considered for every head coach opening.

“I don’t have any doubt that once we do that, the numbers are going to change dramatically,” he says.

The entire report can be found at www.tidesport.org.

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