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New subcommittee to tackle issues of diversity, inclusion

Board of Governors forms permanent group to continue recent momentum

To build on the recent momentum it has gained in addressing issues of diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, the NCAA Board of Governors has approved the formation of a permanent subcommittee to carry on the work that started earlier this year and provide consistent vigilance on the issue.

The subcommittee’s formation last week continues a year of work in which the board recommitted itself to addressing issues of diversity and inclusion, which began with a resolution among its members to commit to diverse hiring practices on their campuses and extended to an Association-wide pledge to follow those practices. In the first month since the pledge was sent to members,  674 schools and conferences – a little more than half of the Association – have signed it.

Members of the board, which is constructed primarily of school presidents, felt the new subcommittee would help the group maintain that momentum.

“These issues are important and are at the core of what college sports and higher education stand for,” said L. Jay Lemons, president of Susquehanna University and vice chair of the Board of Governors, who led the ad hoc committee on diversity and inclusion. “They are not going away, so our group needs to have an effective means for tracking these issues so we can respond in a timely manner. This committee should help us play a more proactive role with these issues.”

The board’s recent actions to address those issues began at its January meeting at the 2016 NCAA Convention, when it was presented with data from Division I that indicated cultural diversity efforts needed presidential leadership and targeted support.

Among the findings: In a division with more than 146,000 student-athletes, 88 percent of  5,514 head coaches were white, and just 41 of  353 athletics directors were ethnic minorities. Meanwhile, whites held a large majority of positions as athletics directors (286), associate directors of athletics (1,546) and assistant directors of athletics (1,157). Ethnic minorities held 446 of those positions – just 13 percent of the total positions measured.

In response, the board drafted a resolution to further commit the Association to fostering a culture on its members’ campuses that promotes diversity and inclusion in athletics, and formed an ad hoc subcommittee to start working on identified areas of need, including improving hiring pipelines and developing research to monitor trends and measure progress.

That subcommittee took the first major step toward its goal in September when it announced it was sending a pledge to the president and commissioner at every NCAA member school and conference and asking them to sign it to commit to hiring practices that promote diversity in gender, ethnicity and race on their staffs. Half of those members have now signed the pledge: 589 from school presidents and chancellors, or 53 percent of the NCAA membership, and 85 from conference commissioners.

The ad hoc committee was intended to be a short-term group, though, and the committee recognized that to fully commit to the effort would require a formal structure to  work on the issue long term. In fact, the board has previously formed subcommittees to study issues related to diversity and inclusion, but the groups typically disbanded when other issues demanded attention.

The formation of a permanent subcommittee is intended to maintain a steady emphasis on the issues’ importance among school presidents and consistent progress toward solutions.

Beer, wine sales pilot program extended

The Board of Governors approved a one-year extension of a pilot program that allows sales of beer and wine at select championships events, after reviewing survey data collected at the College World Series and the Women’s College World Series last summer.

The board’s action last week, coupled with waivers granted by the Division I Board of Directors and the Divisions II and III Presidents Councils, will allow the sale of beer and wine to continue at the College World Series and Women’s College World Series in 2017.  These actions also will allow sales for the first time at the Football Championship Subdivision’s championship game, the men’s lacrosse championship games in Divisions I, II and III, and the Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship.

The data from College World Series and Women’s College World Series show that sales had either a positive or neutral impact on the fans’ experience and no detrimental effects on the experience of student-athletes participating in the events. The number of alcohol-related incidents in venue went unchanged from 2015 at the Women’s College World Series and increased marginally at the College World Series, from 13 to 16. But alcohol-related citations outside the venues decreased: Only one citation was made at the Women’s College World Series, down from two the year before. Seventy-eight citations were made at the College World Series, down from 97 in 2015.

And in a survey of ticket holders for those events, 87 percent of College World Series attendees indicated the sale of beer and wine either had a positive or neutral impact on their experience, and 79 percent of ticket holders at the Women’s College World Series felt the same way. Of the 10 teams from the College World Series and Women’s College World Series that responded to the survey, nine indicated the sales had no impact on their championship experience.