INDIANAPOLIS — Jason Collins’ announcement could have a profound impact on college sports, too.
NCAA president Mark Emmert opened Tuesday’s second Inclusion Forum by urging campus leaders to make school policies more welcoming for women, minorities, disabled athletes and those with different sexual orientations.
While he didn’t cite Collins specifically during his speech or in the subsequent question-and-answer session, Emmert expressed his support for the first openly gay active player in a major American pro sports league. He acknowledged that Collins’ disclosure that he’s gay could have a ripple effect on how college athletic departments treat other players and coaches.
“At the very least, I hope it does make it much easier for athletes in universities and other environments to be open about it and be supported by their coaching staffs and teammates,” Emmert told the Associated Press. “We’re talking about a culture change, and it’s slow and arduous, but what I’m seeing on campuses is that the inclusion issue has moved up.”
When the federal government passed Title IX legislation in 1972, it opened the door to better funding, better facilities and better coaches in women’s sports. Many at the forum argued that men’s and women’s sports still are not funded equally more than four decades later.
Colleges have been at the forefront of opening educational opportunities for minorities and many have instituted policies regarding job searches that are intended to expand the talent pool. Many schools have been leaders in research for students with learning and physical disabilities, and now, with Collins’ going public about his sexual orientation, Emmert sees another opportunity for schools.
“I’m delighted by it,” he said. “The need for a high-performing athlete to feel he can be open and honest about his sexuality is long overdue.”