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Volume 21 No. 13
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Minority numbers in coaching, graduation rates unacceptable

This is always one of my favorite times of the year as a sports fan, as college basketball prepares to crown conference winners, pick the men’s and women’s tournament fields, and enter March Madness itself. It is a time for upsets, emerging unknown players, the dominance of a few teams and star players, and innumerable hours of excitement.

All of that emerges for the general public to see as games are televised. For me, however, the backdrop includes the reports that I help author for the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. In January, we released a report on the athletic leadership positions among the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the 2013-14 academic year. In a few weeks, we will release the 2013 College Racial and Gender Report Card. We also will release the graduation rates of all the teams in the men’s and women’s tournaments. Most of that will not contain good news about college sports, which remains overwhelmingly led by white men and where white male basketball student athletes graduate at significantly higher rates than African-American male basketball student athletes.

Among the 125 top teams in the FBS study released in January, 89 percent of the presidents, 85 percent of the athletic directors and 100 percent of the conference commissioners were white. In those positions 75, 78 and 100 percent are white men, respectively. Overall, whites held 89 percent of the 382 campus leadership positions at the 125 schools. These grossly disproportionate white percentages do not reflect who is playing on college sports teams or is in the America that we know.

The forthcoming College Racial and Gender Report Card looks at all schools and their teams in all three NCAA divisions. It is even more disappointing.

Missouri’s Frank Haith is among the 23 percent of Division I basketball head coaches who are black.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
But for basketball in Division I, there will be some good news in the coaching ranks, where there has recently been a lot of concern. There should be high expectations for African-American coaching opportunities, with nearly 56 percent of the student athletes on men’s basketball teams and 48 percent of the student athletes on women’s teams being African-American in Division I. Among the men’s basketball coaches, 23 percent were African-American, up a significant 4.4 percentage points from the previous report card. Nonetheless, the percentage is still down 2.2 percentage points from the 25.2 percent total that was reported in the 2005-06 season, an all-time high for men’s head basketball coaches. On the women’s basketball teams, African-American men and women combined for percentage of 20.6 percent of the head coaching positions, up a dramatic 6 percentage points from the previous year.
 
However, the news is bleak when we look beyond Division I basketball. Reviewing all sports, whites dominate the coaching ranks on the men’s teams with 86 percent, 88 percent and 92 percent of all head coaching positions in Divisions I, II and III, respectively. On the women’s teams, whites held 85 percent, 88 percent and 92 percent of all head coaching positions in the three divisions.

Forty-two years after the passage of Title IX, women coaching women’s teams still are nowhere near the majority of head coaches. Women held only 39 percent of the women’s head coaching jobs in Division I, 35 percent in Division II and 43 percent in Division III. It doesn’t make any sense that these percentages are not getting significantly better.

With the percentages being so low for both people of color and women as head coaches, the most startling statistic for me is that African-Americans were so underrepresented as head coaches that, once again, the total percentage of women coaching men’s teams in Division III actually exceeded that of African-Americans coaching men’s teams in Division III (5.3 percent versus 4.3 percent). In Division II, the total percentage of women coaching men’s teams was similarly low to the percentage of African-Americans coaching men’s teams (3.9 percent versus 4.2 percent).

The gap between the graduation rates of African-American and white basketball student athletes has been one of the more painful statistics we report each year. While the graduation rates for both have continued to improve, the gap between the two has been between 25 percent and 30 percent over the past five years. That is simply unacceptable. Looking at the 76 teams most likely to be picked for the men’s tournament this year, the gap would be 22 percent.

I am even more concerned this year than in previous years because of the demise (at least temporarily) of the Black Coaches and Administrators. There is some promise that the group will be revived, but right now, it is inactive and without a staff. For decades, it was the voice that fought for all the things that needed to change for African-American coaches and administrators. The silence in early 2014 is difficult to endure and needs to be smashed so the appropriate attention to these issues is resumed.

So over the course of the next month, I will watch and cheer great players and great plays. Like many fans, I often root for the underdog. And the biggest underdogs behind the scenes, as discussed in this column, are the women and people of color waiting for the chance to serve America’s colleges and universities in leadership roles in athletics. I am looking for as many upsets there as on the courts.

Richard E. Lapchick (rlapchick@ucf.edu) is the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, which annually publishes racial and gender report cards on MLB, the NBA and WNBA, NFL, MLS, college sports, and the APSE. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook at facebook.com/richard.lapchick.