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Mid-American Conference prioritizes diversity and inclusion efforts

3 conference schools have been honored for their work in recent years

Diversity and inclusion initiatives receive more than lip service in the Mid-American Conference.

In each of the past three years, an athletics department from the league has earned the Award for Diversity and Inclusion from the NCAA and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association. This year’s winner was Buffalo. Bowling Green (2017) and Northern Illinois (2016) preceded the Bulls in receiving the national honor.

The award was created in 2013 and represents a partnership formed by the NCAA and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association to recognize and celebrate the initiatives, policies and practices of schools and offices that embrace diversity and inclusion across the college sports community. 

These successes can be achieved through community service, professional development, hiring practices or programming activities that enhance opportunities for people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences.

The recognition of MAC athletics departments has spurred more initiatives in the league. In February the conference held its first diversity and inclusion summit. According to Jeff Bacon, the senior associate commissioner of the Mid-American Conference who heads diversity and inclusion efforts from the league office, more than 100 people attended the event.

“We highlighted the achievements of those three schools that were recognized by the NCAA and celebrated what they accomplished,” Bacon said. “Those schools did plenty on their own to earn recognition. They were able to share with the rest of our membership what they’ve been doing on their campuses.”

Besides the diversity and inclusion summit, the MAC also has other initiatives to enhance diversity in its membership.

The league has an internship program that annually provides 25 opportunities across its campuses and the conference office. The internships occur in the fall and spring semesters and offer an opportunity to work in athletics departments. The conference encourages its schools to seek out a diverse pool of student-athletes and others who may be interested in pursuing a career in college sports.

Offering internships in the fall and spring semesters gives student-athletes a chance to apply for the internships regardless of their sport.

The MAC also offers a conferencewide mentoring program in which senior athletics administrators are paired with junior administrators, who often come from diverse backgrounds. The league holds conference calls throughout the year during which participants can share best practices on their campuses. The conference also invites the mentees to conference meetings for programming and interactions with directors of athletics from around the MAC to see how the conference governance process works.

The conference office also is looking to the future. Preliminary plans to conduct diversity and inclusion programming in conjunction with the 2024 Women’s Final Four, which will be hosted by the MAC in Cleveland, already have begun.

“Diversity and inclusion efforts are a priority in our league,” Bacon said. “We are looking forward to figuring out what comes next and continuing to grow.”