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Volume 23 No. 18
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Close look at diversity in collegiate sports shows positive signs

For me, the highlight of college sports is always the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and March Madness: the pace of the games, the upsets, the great play, and the amazing excitement.

This is also frequently a time when the celebration is largely in contrast with poor graduation rates, huge gaps in the graduation rates between African-American and white student athletes, and poor records for racial and gender hiring practices.

However, this year brought more good news from the reports than most. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida released “Keeping Score When It Counts: Graduation Success and Academic Progress Rates for the 2016 Men’s and Women’s Tournament Teams” on the day after the brackets were announced (co-authored with Jasmine Bounds and Justin Veldhuis). Last week, we released the 2015 College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card, co-authored by DaWon Baker.

National champion UConn was among 23 women’s teams with a 100 percent graduation rate.
As in previous reports, the women’s basketball teams bring good news to the report this year, with 23 teams in the 2016 NCAA tournament field showing a 100 percent graduation rate.

Female student athletes graduate at a higher rate than male student athletes on basketball teams, but the men are getting better. The women graduated at a rate of 89 percent versus 78 percent for the men. There also are many categories where the women outperform the men academically. White female basketball student athletes on tournament teams graduated at a rate of 95 percent compared with 85 percent for African-American female basketball student athletes. White male basketball student athletes on tournament teams graduated at a rate of 93 percent versus 75 percent of African-American male basketball student athletes. The 10 percentage-point women’s gap is far less than the 18 percent men’s gap, which was a six percentage-point decrease from 24 percent in 2015.

In the new report card, college sports maintained its overall B grade, its B for racial hiring practices specifically and its C+ for gender hiring practices. There was a small improvement in gender and a small decrease for race.
Among the good news was some improvement for people of color as head coaches in Division I football and men’s and women’s Division I basketball.

The continuing bad news was that more than 60 percent of all women’s sports teams are still coached by men and more than 50 percent of all assistant coaches of women’s teams are men. The opportunities for coaches of color in general continued to be a significant area of concern in all divisions. For the 2015 season, 87 percent of Division I, 89 percent of Division II and 92 percent of Division III men’s coaches were white. On the women’s side, whites held 86 percent, 88 percent and 91 percent in Divisions I, II, and III, respectively.

The number of African-Americans who were head men’s and women’s basketball coaches increased slightly in 2015. In Division I men’s basketball, 22.3 percent of all head coaches were African-American, which was up 0.3 percentage points from the 2013-14 season. In all, 23.8 percent of the Division I men’s basketball coaches were coaches of color, the same as in 2014.

For Division I women’s basketball, African-American women held 11 percent of the head coaching positions and African-American men held 4.1 percent of the positions in 2014-15 for a combined percentage of 15.1 percent, an increase from the 14.3 percent reported in 2013-14.

While the number of head football coaches of color at the FBS level increased from 14 in the 2014 report to 16 at the start of the 2015 season, nearly 88 percent were still white.

These three key coaching positions remain major areas of concern when reviewing the Racial and Gender Report Card. The student athletes they coach are 56 percent African-American in men’s Division I basketball, 47 percent African-American in women’s Division I basketball and 53 percent African-American in FBS football.

Additionally, and not surprisingly, the decision-makers are overwhelmingly white and male. At the athletic director position during the 2014-15 year, 88 percent, 91 percent and 94 percent in Divisions I, II, and III, respectively, were white. Women made up only 8.9 percent of Division I athletic directors, a decrease from 9.6 in 2013-14.

The 2015 report saw the first female FBS conference commissioner in history with the appointment of Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod in October. While this was a great stride for gender hiring in this male-dominated position, all of the FBS conference commissioners remained white in 2015. They are the power brokers.

However, the progress of women as commissioners in Division I as a whole continued. There were nine women commissioners. In addition to MacLeod, there are Val Ackerman (Big East), Elizabeth DeBauche, (Ohio Valley), Robin Harris (Ivy League), Bernadette McGlade, (Atlantic 10), Noreen Morris (Northeast), Jennifer Heppel (Patriot League), Lynn Holzman (West Coast) and Amy Huchthausen, (America East). Huchthausen is the only person of color who is a D-I commissioner.

When compared with the reports on men’s professional sports in the respective report cards, college sports still had the lowest grade for racial hiring practices and is better only than the NFL for gender hiring practices among all of the college and professional sports measured. More than ever before, we need what I call an Eddie Robinson Rule mandating a diverse pool of candidates so that people of color and women get in the interview room for every key position in college sports.

In 2005, the NCAA took action to reform academics, and year-by-year we have seen improvements in the graduation rates, and this year we saw a drop in the gap between the rates of African-American and white basketball student athletes. The threat of lost scholarships and postseason bans helped move the needle.

It is time for that type of reform for hiring practices with serious sanctions for noncompliance.

Richard E. Lapchick ( is the director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program and the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport the DeVos Sport Business Management Program and the 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.