On one front, there has been incredibly positive change. At the beginning of the 2011 college football season, 19 head coaches of color, including 17 African-Americans, led teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools. This includes six new hires for this season.
Not long ago, there were only six coaches of color and very real threats of Title VII lawsuits by the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA), which issues an annual hiring report card.
A report released Tuesday by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) titled “Mild Progress Continues: Assessing Diversity Among Campus and Conference Leaders for Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Schools in the 2011-12 Academic Year” addresses the fact that other positions, such as athletic director and conference commissioner, reflect little if any progress.
At the 120 FBS campuses, Whites held 91.2 percent of the 365 campus leadership positions. White men held 84.2 percent of the athletic director positions. Fourteen men of color held athletic director positions. There were no African-American, Latina, Asian or Native American women serving as athletic directors at FBS schools. Of 120 college president positions, 75 percent were held by White males.
“The reason we do this leadership study is because the hiring process in football is something that the president and the athletic director are very involved with. As long as they are overwhelmingly White and male, then progress is going to be slow,” said Dr. Richard Lapchick, director of TIDES and principal author of the report.
Lapchick said he finds the comparison between professional sports—where diversity has skyrocketed over the past five or six years—and college sports embarrassing.
“College sport is the only place diversity has been left behind,” Lapchick noted. “It just doesn’t happen on college campuses the way it should.”
Lapchick said for many years men of color were not getting football head coaching jobs because there was a perception they couldn’t garner support from alumni and boosters.
“To a large degree, we’ve passed that point in athletic department discussions,” Lapchick said; however, the lack of diversity in other positions “tells us that there is definitely not an intense feeling of diversity being a business imperative in college sports today.”
Three years ago Lapchick wrote an article for ESPN.com calling for a civil rights movement in college sports, particularly football. “I think we’ve got to feel a similar pressure for other positions in our college athletic departments,” he said.
Other statistics of note in the report include that 94.4 percent of faculty athletic representatives are White and 33.6 percent are women. Only 2.4 percent of faculty athletic representatives at FBS schools are women of color. All 11 FBS conference commissioners are White men.
Lapchick mentions the positive attention that the University of Buffalo received after it became the first school to have an African-American head football coach, men’s basketball coach and athletic director. “Schools should learn a lesson that there are going to be really positive responses,” he said.
The goals for diversity, he added, should reflect the American population in general. “Open up the process. Get the best people in room. There is no doubt if you do that across the board on different college campuses, then a richness of diversity will follow,” said Lapchick.
The University of Central Florida, where TIDES is based, is living proof of the positive impact of diversity. Since the hiring of Keith R. Tribble as athletic director in 2006, the school’s reputation has improved significantly on the fields of play—with several of its teams nationally ranked—and in the classroom, where UCF went from dismal graduation rates to the top 10 in the country.
“At UCF, having that person at the top completely changed … the atmosphere on campus toward sports,” Lapchick said.
TIDES sent this report with a cover letter to all the university presidents and athletic directors in FBS schools. Associated Press editor Terry Taylor assigns a reporter to every TIDES report, resulting in widespread national coverage.
Lapchick said he hopes it has an impact. Ultimately, he said, it will take people who embrace diversity and are willing to make change.