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Low Score for Collegiate Sports

Low Score for Collegiate Sports

Latest report shows colleges and universities are among the worst when it comes to
hiring and promoting women and people of color in the coaching and managerial
ranks of sports.

WASHINGTON — College sports departments scarcely received a passing grade when it came to the hiring and promotion of minorities and women, according to the latest report card issued by Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society in Boston.
Select colleges scored a “C” for their hiring and promotion of people of color and women in non-jock sports positions such as athletic directors and coaches.
That translates into some startling numbers when it comes to diversity at some colleges. For example, less than 5 percent of NCAA Division I college athletic directors are minorities and slightly more than 8 percent are women.
“I think the focus of the biggest gaps that occur, when it comes to minorities and women, are happening at the college level,” says Richard Lapchick, director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society and the study’s author. “You are dealing with institutional racism and an old boy system.”
This is the 10th year the center has issued the report that focuses on major league sports and select NCAA Division I colleges. The figures released by the center reveal a stark contrast between the composition of those on and off the field. While the majority of players in professional sports such as basketball and football are African American, the ranks of Black, Latino, and Asian coaches remains small.
There was some good news, however, as the study showed minorities continued to make inroads in some professional sports. The National Basketball Association (NBA) continued to have the best overall record, receiving an A- when it came to the hiring of minorities in the league offices and a B+ for the number of minority coaches. The number of women in the league’s senior administrative job category also climbed from 31 percent last year to 41 percent in 1998, according to the study. But aside from the NBA, women and minorities remained underrepresented in other professional sports leagues — including the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball.
For example, as of June 1999, there were only 12 minority coaches and managers in the three major pro sports leagues combined. That figure was down from 1997’s total of 14, according to the report.
The problem only gets worse at the college level, where the absence of minority coaches and administrators is most noticeable. The report found that colleges still had the worst overall record for minorities holding head-coaching positions. Only 5.8 percent of NCAA Division I head coaches were Black and 2.1 percent were other minorities.
So how do you explain the gap between the pros and colleges?
Dollars and sense, according to Lapchick, who says professional sports institutions can no longer afford to ignore women and minorities.
“I think what happened was it became a business imperative. White fandom was already saturated. And the [professional] organizations realized if they were going to increase their revenues they were going to have to do it by reaching out to African American and Latino fans.”
That realization was made clearer in the early 1990s after Baseball Commissioner Al Campanis and Cincinnati Reds baseball team owner Marge Schotz caused an uproar with their comments about minority athletes, bringing public pressure on major league sports to integrate on and off the field.
That monetary incentive isn’t as strong at the college level, Lapchick says.
“I don’t think anyone is challenging the presidents to make this a moral imperative to get more minorities and women in the position of athletic directors.”
And that translates into a lonely place for many minorities and women.
“I still would say that most of my colleagues are men,” says Lisa Love, associate athletic director at the University of Southern California. Love acknowledges that change has been slow in coming but predicts the heightened interests in women’s sports, like that surrounding the U.S. Women’s soccer team, as well as an increase in the number of female athletes, may help change the ranks of coaches and athletic directors. “It’s beginning to evolve as you are having more women playing sports who will now think of it as an option. People are looking at this area as a career option.”
But not everyone remains as optimistic.
“I think athletic department staff have a tradition of being hired through a White, old-boy system. They are more responsive to alumni concerns than with a moral imperative,” says Carole Oglesby,a professor of kinesiology at Temple University in Philadelphia and a sports psychologist who works with Olympic-level athletes. She cautions that more must be done to maintain the gains that have been made. 
“What troubles me is that a lot of the women coaches are now about to retire,” she says, adding that more effort should be made to groom women for top jobs.
But at least one group has an idea of how to ensure whatever gains that have been made aren’t lost as a new generation is hired.
“We’re pushing for congressional hearings on collegiate hiring,” says Charles Farrell, director of Rainbow Sports, a division of the Rainbow Coalition. “We want athletic directors and university presidents to come and explain the process they use to hire coaches.”
Farrell says public accountability is needed to ensure that African Americans become players in the industry of sports.
“The rules of sports are open and clear and constant. You move the ball past a point, you score six points. But the rules to become a coach aren’t clear and open. There isn’t a sense of what does it take to become an athletic director,” he says.
Besides, says Farrell, diversity makes good business sense for the pros and colleges.
“Jackie Robinson didn’t hurt baseball, he made it. Tiger Woods did the same for golf and Venus and Serena Williams for tennis,” he says.  

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