Editor’s note: Richard Lapchick is a human rights activist, pioneer for racial equality, expert on sports issues, scholar and author.
In any person’s lifetime, crucible moments can often impact the trajectory of one’s life. The willingness to remain adaptable, to learn from and apply knowledge gained from these experiences is of the utmost importance. For me, one of those moments occurred in 1978, when I was the U.S. leader of the sports boycott of South Africa. Two masked men attacked me in my office in the college library, carving the N-word into my stomach. I suffered liver and kidney damage, a concussion and a hernia. In the aftermath, I decided to use sports as the platform to address various social justice issues plaguing our country.
As we continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while simultaneously being at the crossroads of a racial reckoning, this is truly a unique point in U.S. history. This is a crucible moment for all of us. Our collective responses are still being written. It cannot be underscored enough: Sports has the power to be the progressive vehicle needed to promote change. But its power is diminished when it neither lives up to its ideals nor leads the way. That is the case with college sports.
On Wednesday, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) released its 2020 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC). In doing so, TIDES reviewed the racial and gender hiring practices across all three divisions in addition to the NCAA national office. This report examined the disparities that exist throughout the NCAA and its member institutions regarding racial and gender representation. The overall grade was a C+ with a racial hiring grade of a B and a gender hiring grade of C+. These grades show insignificant progress and, in fact, far too many declines. Especially for racial hiring.
Among the most important 16 categories we track by race, only two showed slight improvement, two remained the same and 12 had decreases for people of color. The following categories increased for people of color:
•NCAA office: professional administration increased from 23.1% to 23.7%.
•Head coaches of Division I football teams increased from 10.3% to 10.6%.
The following categories decreased for people of color:
•All student-athletes across DI, DII and DIII decreased from 34.4% to 31.7%.
•NCAA Office Senior Leadership decreased from 23.6% to 23.5%.
•Head coaches in Division I for all men’s teams decreased from 15% to 13.6%.
•Head coaches in Division I for all women’s teams decreased from 16.8% to 16%.
•Head coaches in Division I for men’s basketball teams decreased from 26.0% to 23.9%.
•Head coaches in Division I women’s basketball teams decreased from 22.5% to 21.8%.
•Assistant coaches in Division I men’s teams decreased from 30.6% to 28.7%.
•Associate Athletic Directors in Division I decreased from 14.9% to 13.7%.
•Senior Woman Administrators decreased from 20% to 19.7%.
•Faculty Athletic Reps in Division I decreased from 12.3% to 10.7%.
•Sports Information Directors in Division I decreased from 7.7% to 7.5%.
•DI Professional Administration decreased from 19.8% to 17.3%.
The following categories remained the same for people of color:
•Division I Athletic Directors remained at 15.5%.
•Division I Conference Commissioners remained at 13.3%.
Opportunities for women were generally better. Among the most important, here are 14 categories we track by gender; 10 had increases for women while four decreased.
The following categories increased for women:
•Division I Conference Commissioners increased from 30% to 33.3%.
•All student-athletes across DI, DII and DIII increased from 44.2% to 44.4%.
•NCAA office senior leadership increased from 48.8% to 49.6%.
•Head coaches in Division I all men’s teams increased from 4% to 4.2%.
•Head coaches in Division I all women’s teams increased from 40.6% to 41%.
•Head coaches in Division I women’s basketball increased from 62.3% to 62.6%.
•Assistant coaches in Division I women’s teams increased from 46.8% to 47.2%.
•Division I athletic directors increased from 13.6% to 14.3%.
•Faculty Athletic Reps in Division I increased from 33.5% to 36.7%.
•Sports Information Directors in Division I increased from 15% to 17.3%.
The following categories decreased for women:
•NCAA office professional administration positions decreased from 58.8% to 56.1%.
•Assistant coaches in Division I men’s teams decreased from 9.4% to 8.6%.
•Associate athletic directors in Division I decreased from 32.3% to 32%.
•Division I Professional Administration decreased from 35.3% to 35.2%.
In addition to addressing the racial and gender hiring practices at the NCAA national office, the report examines university leadership positions, including university presidents, athletic directors, associate and assistant athletic directors, head coaches and assistant coaches of men’s and women’s teams, the faculty athletics representatives, senior female administrators, sports information directors and other professional administrators at NCAA member institutions. The report also includes data collected on the conference commissioners along with student-athletes. It is important to note that all data contained within the report does not include figures from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Collegiate athletic administrators
When looking at the institutional leadership, 83.0%, 90.6%, and 91.2% of athletic directors at Division I, II and III, respectively, were white. White males accounted for 72.3%, 70.8% and 61.6% of these positions, respectively.
At the associate athletic director level, the same trend follows, with white people representing 85.2%, 88.1% and 91.6% of these positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively. There is no pipeline.
In addition, the senior woman administrator position is held by an overwhelming majority of white women who represent 79.4%, 86.6% and 90.3% of these positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively.
As if that is all not bad enough, this is how glacial progress has been, or where any small progress has been reversed. In 2000, 76.6% of the administrators at the NCAA headquarters were white. Today, 76.3% are white. In 2010, 70.6% of senior executives and VPs were white. Today, 68.4% are white. In 2006, 75.9% of the managing directors and directors were white. Today, white people hold 78.1% 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, 76.3% are white. More white full-time staff now than 14 years ago.
Now 86.7% of conference commissioners are white in all of Division I. In 2007-08, 86.5% were white.
In 2005-06, 25.2% of men’s Division I basketball head coaches were Black. In 2019-20, 22.7% were. The story goes on. In 2009-10, 6.9% of Div. I head football coaches were Black versus only 8.1% in 2019-20.
In 2010-11, women held 39.5% of the head coaching positions for women’s teams. A decade later they hold only 41% — of women’s teams, across all three divisions.
The athletic director is running the show. We can see why all the statistics just shared are so bad. Twenty years ago, 2.4% of the ADs were Black in Division I. Ten years ago it was 6.6%. Now it is only 10.3%. If Division II and Division III are pipelines, the future remains white. In Division II 10 years ago, Black people held 3.5% of the AD slots. Now they hold 4.1%. In Division III 10 years ago, Black people held 2.5% of the AD slots. Now they hold 5.9%.
It is even worse if associate ADs are the pipeline. Ten years ago, Black people sat in 8.5% of the seats. Ten years later, Black people only hold 9% of the associate AD posts.
All of these figures exclude the HBCUs which, if included, would make the results look better than they really are.
To say we need help to change this is an understatement. Working during this period of the racial reckoning with heightened awareness could help hasten change.
I am encouraged, though, that this past July, the Black AD Alliance was announced, which aims to provide a supportive network for the development of future Black collegiate administrators. Co-chaired by Brandon Martin, athletic director at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Allen Greene, athletic director at Auburn University, I look forward to seeing the work the alliance will do in contributing toward progress that can be seen in equitable representation.
NCAA coaches and student-athletes
Across all divisions, excluding HBCUs, 31.7% of student-athletes are persons of color and 44.4% are female. Hopefully they can become campus activists for better representation of people of color and women in our athletics departments. Institutions of higher education are where we prepare the future generations of leaders. It is vital that we continue provide a space for these athletes to voice their opinions.
I am hopeful that the NCAA Leadership Collective, which was announced in January, will showcase qualified administrators and coaches so they will get increased visibility for hiring from senior administrators working in college athletics.
Additionally, I have long advocated 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 required to have diverse candidate pools. In August, the West Coast Conference, led by the commissioner Gloria Nevarez, implemented the “Russell Rule” as part of its “We are Committed to Change” platform. Similar to the Eddie Robinson Rule and Judy Sweet Rule, the “Russell Rule” requires that each of its member institutions “include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community” in its hiring process. Moreover, TIDES has partnered with the WCC to create a produce a Racial and Gender Report Card based on the demographics at each of the 10 affiliated schools. The efforts taken by the West Coast Conference are admirable and demonstrate its commitment to improving diversity hiring. The Pac-12 has also partnered with TIDES to create a Pac-12 Racial and Gender Report Card.
It is time that we have equitable representation of people in coaching/administrative positions reflecting the racial and gender makeup of student-athletes on collegiate teams.
Now is the opportunity. Now is the time.
Kyle Richardson 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. He has been a regular commentator for ESPN.com on issues of diversity in sport. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook.