NCAA Report Finds Little Diversity In Sports Administration
Percentage of Black athletics directors drops, other positions make little gains
INDIANAPOLIS — Diversity hiring in college athletics is a grand illusion. That’s what the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s latest race report suggests. In college sports, Blacks participate in significant numbers as athletes, but are far less prominent in roles as administrators.
According to the study, the percentage of Black athletic directors at NCAA Division I schools dropped from 10.1 percent to 7.5 percent over the last four years. Overall, the proportion of Black administrators — athletics directors, assistant and associate athletics directors and academic advisers — at Division I schools has increased only slightly, from 9 percent to 10.1 percent over the same time period, from 1995 to 1999.
The low percentage of Black administrators provides a stark contrast to the number of Black athletes. A separate study conducted during the 1997-98 school year revealed that nearly 23 percent of all NCAA athletes are Black. African Americans accounted for 29 percent of the male athletes and 14 percent of female athletes.
“The data collected from the study doesn’t reflect the efforts we’ve made to help enhance racial and ethnic diversity in college sports,” says Charles Whitcomb, professor of recreation and leisure studies at San Jose State University and chairman of the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee.
“My big concern is that the powers that be — the college presidents, athletics directors and conference commissioners — need to be more aggressive in seeking and identifying minorities for leadership positions in athletics,” he said.
Charles Harris, commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, says he’s not surprised by the report’s findings. He says there could be some change in hiring practices if the report could somehow stimulate a stronger sense of accountability among the schools.
“Graduation rates are a good example of how schools can be spurred to be accountable,” says Harris, who has also served two stints as an athletics director, at Arizona State University and the University of Pennsylvania. “People don’t like to talk about why their school is ranked in the bottom five in graduating their athletes. And since they don’t want to be put in that position of having to explain themselves, they take the necessary steps to improve in that area.
“For anyone looking at patterns and role models, the report is troubling because the numbers are stagnant. The report also seems to indicate that the positive things happening with graduation rates is not happening with hiring practices.”
Meanwhile, though there has been relatively little change in the hiring of Black athletics directors at the Division I level, the study does show that Black women have made some headway in the administrative ranks. The proportion of Black senior women administrators has gone up, from 8.4 percent to 11 percent.
Whitcomb says that gender equity is the prime reason for the increase.
“There’s a lot of attention on women’s issues (in sports) and that’s a direct outcome of Title IX,” he says.Title IX is a federal amendment that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at educational institutions that receive federal funds.
Given the current status of diversity hiring in college sports, Whitcomb admits there’s a level of frustration. Even so, he remains optimistic that hiring habits will change and that his committee can be more successful in sensitizing college decision makers to be more inclusive in actively seeking and hiring minority administrators.
To help develop a deep talent pool of viable job candidates for the future, Whitcomb says his committee plans to open the Minority Administrators Institute, which he hopes will be fully operational in two years. The institute, he explains, is being formed to help more minorities develop the necessary skills to be hired in sports management positions at the major college level.
“The numbers aren’t what we think they should be, but we’ll keep working to close the gap,” Whitcomb says. “The idea is to create a solid base of qualified and skilled people who are ready to step in when those (job) opportunities come up.”
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