College diversity figures improve; areas of concern remain
The last time the colleges were graded in the 2008 report card, the grade for racial hiring practices had dropped below a B, leaving college sports as having the lowest grade when weighed against the NBA, Major League Baseball, WNBA, Major League Soccer and the NFL.
In this report card, the colleges, helped enormously by the improvement of opportunities for coaches of color in college football at the highest levels, received a B on race and a solid B on gender. The gender grade is among the highest in organized sports, falling behind only the NBA and WNBA.
In the fall, 18 coaches of color will lead their Football Bowl Subdivision schools. That is a 500 percent increase since Dec. 8, 2008, when I urged a call for civil rights action in college sports as there were only three African-American coaches at that time. This represents the most remarkable turnaround that I have observed in doing these reports for more than two decades.
It was a result of long-term pressure from organizations like the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA), including the annual publication of their BCA Football Hiring Report Card. The late Myles Brand was a great advocate as president of the NCAA, and his values have been reinforced by Mark Emmert, his successor. This past year Tony Dungy argued forcefully for increased opportunities for people of color as coaches. People have been paying attention, and it finally paid off.
But there are serious notes of caution. Men’s college basketball historically had led the way since John Thompson and John Chaney led the charge for equality in the 1980s. We hardly noticed when an African-American was hired as head coach or, perhaps more importantly, fired as head coach. Now we will have to pay more attention.
In the 2005-06 season, more than 25 percent of Division I head coaches in college basketball were African-American. In this report, the number has dropped to 21 percent. Eyes will be on the hiring practices after the college basketball season this year as they have not been in many years.
In addition to the focus on men’s basketball coaches, colleges received an F for conference commissioners. All 11 conference commissioners representing the FBS schools are white men. In the 30 Division I conferences (excluding the two conferences made up of historically black colleges and universities), all of the commissioners are white and only five are women. The other area where an F grade was issued was for women as athletic directors. Only 8.3 percent of Division I athletic directors are women.
These are some of the highlights from the study:
• 92.5 percent of FBS university presidents were white.
• Whites dominate the head coaching ranks on men’s teams, holding 89 percent, 89 percent and 92 percent of all head coaching positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively.
• Likewise on the women’s teams, whites held 88 percent, 90 percent and 92 percent of all head coaching positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively.
• Whites held the overwhelming percentage of positions of athletics directors in all three divisions at 89, 93, and 96 percent in Divisions I, II and III, respectively. This compared with 90, 92 and 97 percent in 2007-08, respectively.
• At the associate athletic director position, whites made up 89, 83, and 93 percent of the total positions at Division I, II and III, respectively.
All these figures stand in stark contrast to the fact that 37.5 percent of our male student athletes in Division I are students of color and 23 percent of our female student athletes across Divisions I, II and III are students of color.
“I am encouraged when I see the improvements in Division I women’s head basketball and Division I FBS football head coaches and coordinators,” said Floyd Keith, executive director of the BCA. “However, I also see the decline of opportunities for people of color as men’s head basketball coaches. I am saddened to continually see the Division I commissioner ratio at 0 percent. In a collegiate landscape that has experienced drastic changes in conference realignments, the position of commissioner is and will continue to be influential.
“Much has been accomplished, but we still have work to do,” he said. “The new report inspires me to continue the journey as we seek equitable and fair representation for all in collegiate athletics.”
There are individual voices that speak out for positive change. There is improvement, and those voices must continue to be raised.
Richard E. Lapchick (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program and is the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. Lapchick has written 16 books that primarily focus on racial and gender issues and ethics in college sport.